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What Are Social Security Work Credits?

  • By:The Law Center for Social Security Rights
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What are Social Security Work Credits?

To determine who is eligible for various Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a system of credits that establish whether you can file for SSDI. Typically, the number of credits required in order to be eligible for benefits is 40. The maximum number of credits that can be earned in any given year is four (three months is one credit) and you only need to earn $1,300 in compensation to acquire each credit.

It is possible to earn all four annual credits in a short amount of time. Once you have earned $5,200 in taxable income, you have acquired the maximum number of credits for the year. This means that a minimum of 10 years in the workforce are required in order to accrue the 40 credits necessary to apply for benefits. Since no one can earn more than four credits per year regardless of income, so that those who have very large incomes are not able to take advantage of benefits any earlier than those with smaller earnings.

However, there are some situations in which benefits may be granted when the standard 40-credit threshold has not been met. If you become disabled at a younger age, you may qualify for disability benefits with fewer credits. For example, if you become disabled before age 24, you can apply for benefits with only six credits over the three years prior to the disability, while those between 24 and 31 need to have credits for half the period between age 21 and their current age at the time of the disability. Those who are 31 to 42 need 20 credits, with the number of credits rising by two for every two years older than 42 you are.

Your Social Security statement should tell you whether you have enough credits to be eligible for benefits. You should also be able to calculate your number of credits from your earnings history which can be requested.

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