How long do I have to work to qualify for Disability? (2023)

The amount of yearsworked that is necessary to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age. Social Security quantifies your work history in terms of work credits. Typically, you will have needed to have worked 5 of the last 10 years to have enough work credits to quality for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). Usually, you need 20 work credits earned in the last 10 years.

Working and Earning Work Credits

There is a chart available to understand how many work credits and years of work are required based on your age. In order to earn work credits, you need to work and pay into Social Security. In 2020, you must earn $1,410 to earn one work credit.

Younger workers can qualify for disability benefits with fewer work credits. If you become disabled before age 24, you must have earned 6 credits in the three years prior to the onset of your disability. If you become disabled between age 24 and 31, you need credits for half the time between age 21 and the onset of your disability. For example, if you become disabled at age 29, you would need four years of prior work, or 16 credits.

You will also need to have worked recently to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If you worked in your youth but took off 6 years to raise a family, you will no longer qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Most SSDI recipients need to have worked recently, usually any 5 of the past 10 years.

(Video) Do I Return to Work After Applying for Social Security Disability?

If you have worked intermittently, but have earned income within the past couple of years, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

How long do I have to work to qualify for Disability? (1)

Qualifying When You Have Not Worked

If you haven't worked enough, there is still hope for your claim. You can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. These benefits are for people of all ages with a severe financial need. Rather than taking into consideration the of years worked and work credits, the SSA will look at your income and assets. If you are within the income limits, then you may will qualify for disability benefits.

Other Requirements for Disability

Once you establish if you have worked long enough for SSDI or if you are within the income limits for SSI, you will need to meet the medical requirements. These are the same for both SSI and SSDI.

To medically qualify, you will need to meet a Blue Book listing. The Blue Book is the guide used by the SSA to assess if someone is medically eligible for disability benefits. Within the Blue Book, you can find conditions that qualify for disability benefits and the requirements that need to be met for that specific condition. This includes things like specific test results, doctors notes, medications, treatment options, etc. Look over the Blue Book with your doctor to make sure you medically qualify.

(Video) How Do I Qualify for Disability Insurance Benefits?

If you do not medically qualify, but are still unable to work due to the condition you are experiencing, there is still hope. You can request a residual functional capacity (RFC) form be completed by a doctor. This form will go over the disabling condition you are experiencing, your symptoms, and how they impact your work ability.

The RFC will demonstrate that you are unable to work in the field you have been trained to work in, and that there is no other work you can do because the condition you are experiencing. It will explain how long you can sit, stand, how much you can lift, your ability to understand, remember and complete tasks, etc.

How long do I have to work to qualify for Disability? (2)

How Long Do You Have to Work to get Social Security?

You also must have worked recently to qualify for SSDI benefits. If you worked when you were young and then stopped for 6 years to start and raise a family you won’t qualify for SSDI. Most SSDI recipients are usually required to have worked recently, typically any 5 of the last 10 years.

Credits are calculated based on your total wages or income from self-employment income earned each year. The amount of earnings needed for one credit isn’t the same every year. In 2021, you earn one work credit for every $1,470 in earnings. You need to earn $5,880 to gain the maximum of four credits allowed for each year.

(Video) How Long do I have to File a Long Term Disability Claim?

How Long do You Have to be Out of Work to Apply for Disability?

In order to be eligible for SSDI benefits, you will need to be out of work for at least 12 months or longer due to your disability and you will need to provide the proof that it is your disability that is preventing you from working. However, you may apply for disability benefits as soon as you have to give up work because of your medical condition.

You will have to provide sufficient evidence that you won’t be able to work for at least 12 months to qualify for SSDI benefits or SSI to avoid denied benefits. This is called the durational requirement. If the SSA doesn't believe your disability will last at least 12 months, you will be sent a "durational denial" letter. If you are only going to be disabled and unable to work for less than 12 months then you won’t qualify for SSDI benefits.

In addition to the length of time you have been out of work in order to qualify for SSDI, your accrued work credits and age your disability needs to be listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. The SSA uses its Blue Book as a guide to assess if a person is medically eligible for disability benefits.

If your disability is listed you will need to provide evidence that proves the presence of it such as your doctor’s report, results of relevant medical test results and success of treatments used to relieve the symptoms of your disability.

(Video) I Filed a Short-Term Disability Claim, How Long Will it Take to Get Approved? [Find Out Here]

Getting Help With Determining if You Worked Enough

Do you need help determining if you'll qualify for Social Security benefits? You should contact a Social Security attorney or disability advocate. He or she can evaluate your claim and help you start the application process. You can also learn more about your eligibility by filling out a free evaluation form today.

Additional Resources

(Video) New Rules for Working While Applying for Social Security Disability


Can I get SSDI if I haven't worked in 10 years? ›

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), 20 credits equals five years of work. Therefore, in general, to have enough credits to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have worked five out of the past ten years.

What disqualifies a person from disability? ›

To qualify for disability benefits, a person must not be able to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) earning up to a certain amount. If you are able to make more than the SGA, then you will not qualify. For 2022 the threshold is $1,470 per month. For an applicant who is statutorily blind the amount is $2,460.

How long do you have to have worked to get SSDI? ›

The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when your disability begins. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year your disability begins. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

What happens if you don't have enough work credits for disability? ›

You can get Social Security Disability benefits even if you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. The SSA offers the SSI program to disabled adults and children who have limited financial resources.

Can I get SSDI if I only worked 2 years? ›

Typically, you will have needed to have worked 5 of the last 10 years to have enough work credits to quality for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). Usually, you need 20 work credits earned in the last 10 years.

What is the lowest disability payment? ›

The benefit amounts are not based on the recipient's historical earnings but set by the federal government. In 2022 the federal SSI benefit rate is $841 for an individual and $1,261 for a couple. SSI is still available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands.

What is the most approved disability? ›

What Is the Most Approved Disability? Arthritis and other musculoskeletal system disabilities make up the most commonly approved conditions for social security disability benefits. This is because arthritis is so common. In the United States, over 58 million people suffer from arthritis.

What is the fastest you can get disability? ›

Generally, it takes about 3 to 5 months to get a decision. However, the exact time depends on how long it takes to get your medical records and any other evidence needed to make a decision. * How does Social Security make the decision? We send your application to a state agency that makes disability decisions.

What disabilities are hard to prove? ›

Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are qualifying disabilities that are difficult to prove. Having a long history of medical treatments and contact with a mental health practitioner can improve your case.

How far back will SSDI pay benefits? ›

By law SSDI benefits have a five-month waiting period — they start the sixth full month after the onset date — so you're entitled to 10 months of past-due benefits. Social Security typically pays past-due SSDI in a lump sum within 60 days of the claim being approved.

Do I have to quit my job before applying for SSDI? ›

When many people begin researching whether they qualify for Social Security disability benefits, one of the first questions that will arise is: do I need to quit my current job in order to obtain benefits? The short answer is no!

What is the average SSDI payment for 2022? ›

In 2022, the average monthly benefit amount paid to an SSDI recipient is around $1,358 but can go as high as around $3,345 a month for those whose income was fairly high in recent years.

What can I claim if I can't work due to disability? ›

You might be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), paid by your employer. If this has run out, or you can't claim it, you might be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Universal Credit, and other benefits.

Can you get disability allowance without a diagnosis? ›

You don't need a formal diagnosis from a doctor to apply, but this can usually help. If your child is terminally ill and not expected to live more than 6 months, you can apply right away regardless of how long your child has had difficulties for.

Can I get SSI without 40 credits? ›

You must earn at least 40 Social Security credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. You earn credits when you work and pay Social Security taxes. The number of credits does not affect the amount of benefits you receive.

Can you get disability for anxiety? ›

Anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are considered disabilities by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and qualifies someone for Social Security disability benefits.

What pays more SSI or SSDI? ›

In general, SSDI pays more than SSI. Based on data from 2020: The average SSDI payment is $1,258 per month. The average SSI payment is $575 per month.

Do you have to wait 5 months for SSDI? ›

Generally, if your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is approved, you must wait five months before you can receive your first SSDI benefit payment. This means you would receive your first payment in the sixth full month after the date we find that your disability began.

What is considered to be a permanent disability? ›

Permanent disability (PD) is any lasting disability from your work injury or illness that affects your ability to earn a living. If your injury or illness results in PD you are entitled to PD benefits, even if you are able to go back to work.

How do they determine how much disability you get? ›

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine your payment based on your lifetime average earnings before you became disabled. Your benefit amount will be calculated using your covered earnings. These are your earnings at jobs where your employer took money out of your wages for Social Security or FICA.

What conditions are considered a disability? ›

A person is disabled under the Act if they can't work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death. The person's medical condition(s) must prevent them from doing work that they did in the past, and it must prevent them from adjusting to other work.

Can I get Social Security if I never worked in my life but am disabled? ›

The SSA makes SSI available for individuals that have never worked or have not worked enough to meet the criteria required for SSDI eligibility. SSI also covers people that file a claim for disability benefits, but have not worked for a long time to qualify for SSDI.

Can you be on SSDI forever? ›

For those who suffer from severe and permanent disabilities, there is no “expiration date” set on your Social Security Disability payments. As long as you remain disabled, you will continue to receive your disability payments until you reach retirement age.

What is difference between SSDI and SSI? ›

The major difference is that SSI determination is based on age/disability and limited income and resources, whereas SSDI determination is based on disability and work credits. In addition, in most states, an SSI recipient will automatically qualify for health care coverage through Medicaid.

Does Social Security Disability end at full retirement age? ›

Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries become full retirement age. The law does not allow a person to receive both retirement and disability benefits on one earnings record at the same time.

What is 20 work credits for disability? ›

In 2023 a worker must earn $1,640 to earn one work credit. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you will generally need to have earned a total of 20 work credits, although there are age exceptions to this rule.

What happens if I don't get 40 credits for Social Security? ›

You currently have fewer than the 40 credits needed to become fully insured for retirement benefits. You can still earn credits and become fully insured if you work. We cannot pay you benefits if you don't have enough credits.

How far back does SSDI go back? ›

The maximum SSDI will provide in back payments is 12 months. Your disability would have to start 12 months before you applied to receive the maximum in SSDI benefits. Let's look at an example: You become disabled on February 1, 2019, and apply for SSDI benefits on April 1, 2019.

Which pays more Social Security or disability? ›

If you're comparing these two types of Social Security benefits, then you should know that typically the SSDI benefits pay more. In fact, disability in this scenario is, on average, more than double the benefits you would receive from SSI benefits. However, every individual situation may have varying results.

How do I get the $16728 Social Security bonus? ›

Who is eligible for Social Security bonus? For every year that you delay claiming past full retirement age, your monthly benefits will get an 8% “bonus.” That amounts to a whopping 24% if you wait to file until age 70.

Is it better to get SSI or disability? ›

SSDI usually pays higher benefits than SSI.

The average SSDI payment is about $1,500, while the average SSI payment is only about $700 per month.

How much money can you have in the bank on Social Security disability? ›

The SSDI program does not limit how much money you can have in the bank because there are no resource limits as you find with SSI.

Is it better to retire or go on disability? ›

In most cases, it is better to receive disability benefits until you reach full retirement age. If you collect early retirement, your benefits are permanently reduced. If you receive SSDI payments until you reach full retirement age, there is no permanent reduction in your retirement benefits.

Do I pay taxes on disability income? ›

If you do not work because of a disability and receive DI benefits, those benefits are not taxable.

How long can you be on disability? ›

How long can I collect Disability Insurance benefits? You can collect up to 52 weeks of full Disability Insurance (DI) benefits, or the amount of wages in your base period, whichever is less.


1. How to Qualify for Disability | Social Security Administration's 5-Step Eligibility Criteria for SSD
(Riddle & Brantley, LLP)
2. 12 New Qualifying Conditions For Social Security Disability Benefits
(The Disability Digest)
3. Medical Conditions that Qualify You for Disability Benefits
(MOS Medical Record Reviews)
4. Stopped working and ready to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
5. How to Qualify for Long Term Disability
(ExpertVillage Leaf Group)
6. How to qualify for SSDI disability, work credits
(True North Disability Planning)
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