• Christopher Le

How long do I need to work before I can qualify for Social Security Disability ?

That question depends on how old you are when you’re found disabled. Even applicants younger than 24 years of age can qualify for social security disability (SSDI) with only a year and a half of work. But as you get older the threshold goes up.


In order to qualify for SSDI benefits you must have enough work credits. You get credits when you pay social security taxes. For year 2021, you get 1 credit for each $1,470 you earn. You can only receive a maximum of four credits per year. So once you make $5,880 or more in earnings, you have met your 4 credits for the year.


For social security retirement benefits, you qualify for retirement once you get 40 credits, which is basically 10 years of working and paying Social Security taxes. The 10 years does not have to be consecutive. Keep in mind that retirement can kick in at age 62. If you draw at 62, this is considered drawing early retirement. Full retirement age is currently at age 66. But with social security disability it can kick in at any age. Social Security developed a sliding scale for SSDI. You must be ”insured” in order to receive SSDI.


How do I become insured?

First, you must have worked at least semiregularly in the period prior to filing for disability. This requirement is different depending on your age:

  • If you become disabled on or before you turn 24, you must have earned at least six credits which is basically 1.5 hrs of work in the prior three years to meet the requirement .

  • Between the ages of 24 and 31, you must have worked at least half the time since turning 21.

  • After age 31, the you must have worked five years in the decade immediately before you became disabled. One key question we ask our clients is, “have you worked 5 of the last 10 years full time?”


The requirementa above do not apply in a claim for Supplemental Security Income or SSI benefits. SSI is the other disability program by social security administration.

You can qualify for SSI as a disabled person regardless if you have a work history, little work history or no work history at all, as long as you meet the medical criteria for disability and have limited income/assets.

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