With every paycheck you receive, you make contributions toward Social Security. Eventually, you can receive retirement benefits based on a lifetime of contributions. If you have a serious medical issue that affects your career, you may need to stop working well before you are old enough to actually retire.
Whether you got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or suffered a spinal injury in a car crash, you may become unable to continue your work years before you can qualify for retirement benefits. Thankfully, the Social Security Administration (SSA) manages a second benefit program funded by those same payroll contributions.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) protects employed adults who can no longer work because of a disabling medical condition that will last 12 months or longer. Not only does your condition need to be severe enough for you to qualify, but you also need to have made enough contributions to Social Security while working to get benefits. How long must you keep your job to qualify?
Your age determines how much work history you need
The SSA assigns you credits for earning money from work. For some workers, SSDI benefits require at least 40 credits. That is the same number of credits workers need to qualify for retirement benefits. Additionally, the SSA requires that the applicant earned 20 of those credits in the last 10 years.
A worker can receive a credit for every $1,510 they earn per year, with a maximum of four credits annually regardless of income. Even someone making minimum wage would receive four credits each year if they work full-time.
Younger workers who have had less time to accrue those credits can still qualify for benefits. Those under the age of 24 only need six credits from within the last three years. Those over the age of 31 will typically need at least 20 credits to qualify for SSDI.
The SSA has different rules for younger workers, but there is an expectation that the applicant will have maintained employment for half of the time between when they got injured and when they turned 18 at a minimum. Learning more about the rules that govern SSDI benefits claims will improve your chances of getting benefits when you need them.