Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

SSD Benefit Requirements and Work Credits

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, an individual must have paid a certain amount into the social security fund through the FICA taxes deducted from his or her paycheck (or paid in to the system directly as a result of self-employment).

In other words, if you have not worked, or have not worked many hours, or have not worked in recent years, you may not qualify for SSD. In attempting to understand this, it helps to think of SSD by its other name, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Basically, everyone who works contributes to the national disability insurance fund, and like any other "insurance policy" (title II benefits are actually called SSDI, social security disability insurance), this resource can be drawn on if one becomes disabled, if you have paid enough into the system.

How much in FICA taxes do you have to have to have paid to be eligible? Well, this can get a bit complicated, because social security doesn’t measure your contribution in dollars or hours, but in work credits. This is necessary to compensate for inflation—the dollar amount associated with one work credit changes each year. In 2008 one work credit was equal to $1,050, and in 2016 one social security work credit equaled $1,260.

To make it even more complicated, you must have earned at least half of your work credits fairly recently, and even this requirement varies according to your age. Here is a very basic rundown of work credit requirements that must be met in order to qualify for SSDI: If you are younger than 24 years of age, you must have earned 6 credits in the past three years; if you are 24-31 years of age, you must have earned 12 credits in the past 6 years, and if you are over 31, you must have earned 20 work credits in the past 10 years.

Assuming you have worked enough to be eligible for social security disability insurance, or SSDI, you also have to meet the following SSD benefit requirements: 1) your medical records must indicate that you have a severe physical or mental impairment; 2) your condition must have existed or be expected to last for a period of at least one year regardless of medical treatment; and 3) your medical condition must be severe enough to prevent you from earning the current SGA, or substantial gainful activity amount.

Unlike Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, which is awarded based on financial need, you do not have to demonstrate that you are impoverished to qualify for SSDI; only that you have worked enough to qualify and that you are now unable to earn the current SGA amount.

Whether you drive a Porsche or a Jetta, if you have contributed the required amount in FICA taxes in recent years, and your medical records show that your impairment is severe enough to prevent you from earning the amount for substantial gainful activity, you could collect SSD or SSI disability benefits.

However, it is important to note that, unless you have a fairly straightforward disability, such as blindness, paralysis, brain trauma, or any other medical condition listed in the social security disability list of impairments handbook (commonly referred to as a blue book, this is a listing of medical conditions that Social Security considers disabling), you will probably have a hard time proving disability regardless of your employment history or the information in your medical records. That's not to say, however, that it will be impossible to win disability benefits. In fact, the majority of claimants who appear at a disability hearing (the second appeal step) do get approved for benefits. They simply have to weather going through the appeal system.

The fact is, about 70 percent of all SSD applications are denied, and many of these denials occur because the disability examiner decides that, although the claimant is impaired, he or she is still able to perform past work or some other type of work. Past work may be any job the claimant has held in the past 15 years (social security calls this the “relevant period”); other work may include any job that the claimant may be qualified to perform given his or her age, education, job skills, and physical or mental limitations.

Claims are routinely denied at the lower levels based on the ability to perform past work or other work. However, refuting this can be a matter of presenting an RFC form from a physician, more accurately addressing a claimant's work history and job skills, providing additional medical record documentation, or arguing the merits for an approval...all of which are more likely to occur at the hearing level.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

The SSDI SSI disability application, how to file
Anxiety Disorder and Filing for Disability
Medical Evidence on a Social Security Disability or SSI Claim
Can if I win disability if I file for back problems?
How much SS backpay do you get?
Disability approvals over age 50
What to bring to a disability interview when you apply
Working and getting Disability
Contacting Social Security about the status of your disability claim
How to file for disability in Vermont
Does A Percentage of VA Disability Make You Eligible For Social Security Disability?
What if I move while applying for disability?
Is it easy to get disability?
Is Social Security Disability More Than Social Security Retirement?
Diverticulitis and Filing for Disability
How to qualify for disability with depression

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

Social Security Disability attorneys and representatives
What is the status of your social security disability or SSI case
Rules and requirements to apply for disability
Will I qualify for disability?
Apply for disability for any medical condition
Steps and Tips for requesting a disability hearing
If your disability claim is approved or denied
Social Security Award letter for SSD, SSI
Temporary Social Security Disability SSI
Social Security Disability SSI reviews
How social security evaluates attention deficit
Filing for disability with Post polio syndrome
Tips for Getting Disability Approved
How far back Social Security will pay SSDI or SSI
SSI award notices are received by approved claimants
Winning and getting disability with a mental condition
Getting disability for rheumatoid arthritis
Can you work if you get Disability?
Who qualifies for SSI and how
How to file for disability and where to apply
Conditions that may qualify as disability
Denied on a disability application
Answering questions at a Social Security Disability hearing