How Many Work Credits Do You Need for Social Security?

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on March 31, 2023 | In Social Security Disability

How Many Work Credits Do You Need for Social Security?

If you get sick or are injured and are unable to work for at least a year, you may believe that you qualify for Social Security benefits. However, this is not necessarily the case. In order to qualify for SSDI benefits in Los Angeles, you must know the answer to the question, “how many Social Security credits do I have?”

Currently, workers who are 62 or older and need SSDI must have accumulated 40 work credits, with at least half earned in the past ten years. However, younger workers can receive benefits with fewer credits.

What Are Work Credits for Social Security?

Work credits for Social Security are credits that a worker accumulates on their work record. Whenever a worker works and pays FICA taxes, that worker receives a certain amount of work credits.

In order to receive certain Social Security benefits, such as Social Security disability benefits and Social Security retirement benefits, a worker must have accumulated a certain amount of work credits.

For those individuals who have not acquired the requisite number of credits to qualify, there are certain Social Security programs they may qualify for, such as Supplemental Security Income.

How to Earn Credits for Social Security

If you are wondering, “how do you earn credits for Social Security?”, you should know that no matter what type of worker you are, there is only one way to earn Social Security credits — you must work. And the more you work, the more credits you will earn.

However, you can only earn a certain number of credits each year. According to Social Security rules, a worker may only earn four credits per year. As far as how much work you must do to earn one credit, the amount changes regularly. As of 2023, a person earns one credit for every $1,640 of income they make.

To determine the maximum yearly amount under the 2023 income rules, you simply multiply $1,640 by 4, and you get the amount of income you must earn in a year to receive your maximum number of credits — $6,560. Keep in mind that the income rules differ for past years; less income got you more points.

How Many Social Security Credits Do I Need?

how many credits do you need for social security

As mentioned, workers 62 years of age or older need 40 credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Additionally, at least half of these 40 credits must have been earned within the last ten years preceding your disability. Currently, it takes 10 years to earn 40 credits. How many credits for Social Security benefits is different for younger workers, who are permitted to apply for disability with fewer credits.

According to SSA rules, if a person becomes disabled before 24, they would only need six credits earned within the previous three years. And workers between the ages of 24 and 30 need credits for only half of the time between the age of 21 and the start of their disability.

For workers ages 31 through 42, the number of credits needed to apply for SSDI is 20. From there, the number of credits that a worker needs increases. For example, a worker who is 44 years of age needs 22 credits to qualify, and a worker who is 46 years of age needs 24:

  • Retirees — Retirees looking to begin receiving retirement benefits must have a total of 40 credits to qualify, regardless of whether they take the retirement before their full retirement age, on time, or after.
  • Disabled recipients — Depending on their age, disabled recipients must have accumulated between 6 and 40 credits to receive Social Security disability benefits.
  • Survivors — Surviving spouses and children may be entitled to survivor’s benefits if their deceased loved one earned at least six credits.

If you are wondering, “how do I find out if I have enough Social Security credits?” you can visit the Social Security Administration website or meet with an attorney for help.

How Many Years of Work Do I Need to Qualify for Social Security?

how to check social security credits

The answer to “how many credits do I need for SSDI?” depends on your age. For workers who are over the age of 43, the required number of years increases by six months every two years. For example, workers who are 44 must have 5.5 years of work, and workers who are 46 must have logged at least six work years.

For workers between 31 and 42, the number of years worked must be at least five, whereas workers between 24 and 30 need to have worked at least half the time from 21 to the date of their disability. Workers under 24 need only 1.5 years of work.

For an answer to “how do I find out how many Social Security credits I have”, contact the SSA.

Age at Disability Required Work Credits Years of Work History
Under 24 6 1.5
24-30 18 2-2.5
31-42 20 5
44 22 5.5
46 24 6
48 26 6.5
50 28 7
52 30 7.5
54 32 8
56 34 8.5
58 36 9
60 38 9.5
62+ 40 10

Types of Employment that Earn Social Security Credits

It is helpful to know which jobs do not earn Social Security credit. If you engage or have engaged in the following types of employment, you may not have earned any credits:

  • Most federal employees employed before 1984
  • Railroad employees with more than a decade in the industry
  • Certain state and local government employees who have opted out of Social Security
  • Children under 21 who do household chores and work for their parents

Generally speaking, most other forms of employment will earn work credits. However, this is only the case if you pay Social Security taxes on said employment. Under-the-table employment does not count unless you personally pay taxes on the income you earn.

Self-employed workers also earn Social Security credits provided they pay their Social Security taxes, which is not automatic as it is when an employee receives their paycheck. For this reason, self-employed workers need to ensure that they are indeed in compliance with all relevant tax provisions.

What Happens When You Lack Work Credits?

work credits for social security

Disability payments help keep disabled workers afloat. Millions rely on them to replace some of their wages and make ends meet. Unfortunately, some workers find themselves with not enough work credits for disability.

When this is the case, a worker may not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance payments. However, certain workers who do not have a work record for Social Security Disability Insurance may be able to receive Social Security benefits from a different program, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSI is a benefit for disabled individuals or the blind who have limited financial resources and not enough work history to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. To determine whether you are eligible for Social Security benefits from the SSI program, the Social Security Administration utilizes strict income thresholds and asset calculations.

How Do You Check Social Security Credits?

Once you know the answer to the question “how many credits do you need for Social Security?”, “How many credits do I have?” becomes the next likely question.

Fortunately, you can find the answer to “how many credits do I have for Social Security?” by visiting the SSA website and performing your own Social Security credit check. You will need to create a personal Social Security account. Once you do, you will have up-to-date information on the number of credits you have.

The Bottom Line

If you need Social Security benefits but are not sure you qualify, you can check your number of credits on the SSA website. If you do not have enough credits, remember that although most of the programs depend on your number of credits, SSI does not.

You can also schedule a free consultation with a disability attorney who can help you determine your eligibility or help you deal with a current claim or claim denial you might be facing.

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