What are “work credits” in Social Security Disability Cases?

Apr 26, 2021


When you start looking at applying for Social Security Disability Insurance you will start hearing the term “work credits”. The question asked is, “do you have enough work credits for social security disability insurance?” Without know that work credits are, many people ignore the question. This is never a good idea. If you do not have the required work credits, you do not quality to receive Social Security Disability Insurance even if you fit the definition of disabled. So, what are work credits and how many are needed to qualify for Social Security Disability?

Work Credit Defined

When you work, you are required to pay into Social Security and Medicare. If you make a total of at least $1,410 in a three-month period, you get a work credit. (This is the amount required as of 2020, but that amount is adjusted every year.) You can get a total of four work credits every year by making at least $5,640.

How many Credits do You Need?

How many credits are needed to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance depends on your age when you became disabled. If you become disabled before age 24, then you must have at least 6 work credits in the three-year period ending when your disability started. If you become disabled between age 24 and 31, then you need to have enough work credits to cover half of the time between age 21 and the time you became disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 25, then you will need 8 work credits. (4 years between age 21 and 25; half is 2 years, meaning 8 three-month work credits). After age 31, the amount needed is shown in the list below (at least 20 of these work credits must be earning in the ten years immediate before you become disabled):

Age Credits Needed

31-42 20

43-44 22

45-46 24

47-48 26

49-50 28

51-52 30

53-54 32

55-56 34

57-58 36

59-60 38

61 or older 40

Since at least 20 of the work credits must be earned in the ten years immediately before you become disabled, a person should not wait too long to apply for Social Security Disability. If you go several years without working before applying, your total amount of credits in the last ten years is going down. If that falls below the required 20 work credits, then you do not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance unless you can prove you became disabled when you still had at least 20 work credits in the last ten years.

Do You Have Enough Credits?

If you are wondering how many work credits you have, you can figure it out by calling your local field office or by going online and creating a Social Security Account. Even if you do not have enough work credits, you may still qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance based on certain family member’s entitlement to insurance. For instance, you may be eligible if your spouse or divorced spouse is eligible and you meet certain other requirements.

What if You Do Not have Enough Credits?

Not qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance because you do not have enough work credits doesn’t mean you can never get payments from Social Security. You can try to qualify for Social Security’s other program call Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program still requires you to be disabled but also has limits on what assets you can own. The limit of assets is about $2,000 total. There are assets that do not count towards this total, but, as you can tell, the program is not ideal.

Having enough work credits is just one of many steps towards qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance. If you have applied for social security disability and been denied, it is probably time to talk with a social security disability attorney.


At Pedersen Law Office, LLC we understand how confusing applying for Social Security Disability can be; that is why we offer free consults. We will discuss your application and disability and help you through the entire process. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.

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