What Are Social Security Work Credits?

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Social Security Disability is a federal program designed to give assistance to people with disabilities. Understanding Social Security Disability can be a daunting task. The strict guidelines, changing laws and unfamiliar terminology can create stress and confusion during an already difficult time.

The concept of “work credits” and how they affect your eligibility to receive benefits is one of the most confusing aspects of Social Security Disability.

I hope this post will clear up that confusion.

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn work credits, a maximum of four each year. The work credits you earn over your lifetime determine your eligibility for all sorts of Social Security benefits, including disability and retirement.

Work credits are based on a number of factors: the amount you earned, the length of time you worked and also how recently you worked.

Generally, you must have 40 work credits and have earned 20 of them within the last 10 years to qualify for Social Security Disability. If you have worked five of the last 10 years, you should have enough work credits to be covered. However, other factors may come into play, including your age and your wages.

If you become disabled and you’re out of work, you are not earning any work credits. That’s why it’s important to apply for Social Security Disability as soon as you can, to protect your eligibility.

If you’re considering filing for Social Security Disability, a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer can help you determine your eligibility and guide you through the application process. For general information on Social Security work credits and how they impact your eligibility for Social Security Disability, take a look at our list of frequently asked questions below.

How much income do I need to earn work credits?

Social Security work credits are based on your annual income. In the year 2017, you must earn $1,300 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit and $5,200 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

How many work credits do I need to qualify for Social Security Disability?

To qualify for Social Security Disability, generally you must have a total of 40 credits, and you must have earned 20 of them within the last 10 years.

Will my disability payment amount increase if I have more than 40 credits?

No. The amount of your disability payment is based on your average yearly earnings. Work credits are qualifying factors only, and they cannot increase your benefit amount.

I am not old enough to have earned 40 work credits. Does that mean I can’t collect Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Administration has taken younger workers into consideration and has different qualifications for those who aren’t yet old enough to have earned 40 work credits.

  • If you are younger than 24, you must have earned six credits in the last 3 years before your date of disability.
  • If you are 24-31 years old, you can qualify for disability benefits if you have credits for working half the time between age 21 and the start of your disability.

Are there any situations that could make me ineligible to continue receiving Social Security Disability?

There are two instances where you could become ineligible for continuing payments.

  • You engage in “substantial” work.  In 2017, if you earn more than $1,170 per month, you would not be able to continuing receiving benefits.
  • Second, if the Social Security Administration decides that your condition has improved and you are no longer disabled, you will no longer receive benefits.

What happens to my benefits if I go back to work?

The Social Security Administration encourages disabled workers to regain employment by offering “work incentives.” These incentives include continued benefits and Medicare/Medicaid for a set period of time after you return to work. It also offers assistance with education, training and rehabilitation to help you get started in a new line of work.

The impact that returning to work can have your disability benefits can be complicated. There are strict guidelines and limitations to the program. To fully understand how returning to work will affect your benefits, consult a qualified Social Security Disability attorney.

What happens to my Social Security Disability benefits when I reach retirement age?

If you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits and nearing retirement age, it’s important to note that you cannot receive both types of benefits at once. Once you reach retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically switch to Social Security retirement benefits.

How many work credits do I need to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Work credits only apply to Social Security Disability benefits, not Supplemental Security Income. Your eligibility for Supplemental Security Income is based on need and not your prior work history.

Understand your rights under the Social Security Disability program

When filing for Social Security Disability, make sure you understand your rights. With the help of an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer, you can improve your chances of being approved for benefits while ensuring the benefit amount you are paid has been calculated correctly.



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