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Understanding Work Credits in Social Security Disability

If you’re considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you’ve likely come across the term “work credits.” But what are they, and why are they vital for your SSDI claim? This article offers a comprehensive look into work credits, their importance, and their implications for your disability benefits, especially if you’re seeking legal representation.

What are Work Credits?

At its core, the Social Security system operates as a form of insurance. Over your working years, you pay into the system via Social Security taxes. Just as you’d earn coverage duration with regular insurance through premium payments, with Social Security, you earn “coverage” through work credits.

Work credits, sometimes called quarters of coverage, are the metric the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to determine whether you’ve worked enough to qualify for benefits. Essentially, they’re a measure of your work history and contributions to Social Security through payroll taxes.

How Do You Earn Work Credits?

Work credits are earned based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. The amount needed for a credit changes annually. For instance, in 2023, you’d earn one credit for each $1,640 in wages or self-employment income, and you can earn up to four credits per year for a total of $6,560.

It’s not about the duration of employment but the income. So, whether you earn the yearly maximum for four credits in 12 months or 2 months, you still only gain four credits for that year.

How Many Work Credits Do You Need for SSDI?

The required number of work credits depends largely on your age when you become disabled:

  • Before age 24: Typically, you’d need 1.5 years of work (6 credits) in the three years before your disability starts.
  • Age 24 to 31: You may qualify if you’ve worked half the time between age 21 and when you become disabled.
  • Age 31 or older: Generally, the requirement is 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before the onset of disability, though the number increases incrementally based on age (

Why Do Work Credits Matter for Your SSDI Claim?

Meeting the work credit requirement is the first step to qualify for SSDI. If you don’t have enough credits, your application will be denied regardless of the severity of your disability. Moreover, work credits also determine your “Date Last Insured” (DLI). Your DLI is the last date you meet the credit requirements for SSDI. To qualify for benefits, you must prove your disability began on or before this date

How an Attorney Can Help

Work credits can be a complex realm to navigate. The challenge lies not just in understanding the credits but also in how they interact with other aspects of your disability claim. An attorney experienced in SSDI can:

  1. Help Decipher Work Credits: Your lawyer can review your work history, evaluate your credits, and determine your eligibility.
  2. Strategize Claims Around DLI (Date Last Insured): If your DLI is nearing, an attorney can ensure timely application submission, enhancing the likelihood of success.
  3. Assist in Appeals: Should your claim face denial due to work credit issues, an attorney can guide you through the appeals process.

What You’ve Learned

Work credits play a pivotal role in your SSDI application. They serve as a testament to your contributions to the Social Security system and determine your eligibility for benefits. As you navigate the SSDI landscape, understanding work credits can be your cornerstone. And if challenges arise, know that a qualified SSDI attorney can be an invaluable ally, bridging the gap between the intricacies of work credits and your rightful benefits.

To contact a qualified social security disability attorney, click here or call (833) 613-0618 for a free consultation. 

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