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Understanding the Earnings Tests for Social Security Disability

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on September 9, 2013 | In Social Security Disability

For most adult recipients, Social Security disability (SSD) benefits are earnings-based. If you have a disabling condition and you meet the earnings requirements, you qualify for benefits; otherwise, you do not, regardless of the severity of your medical condition.

One of the most common questions answered by experienced southern California Social Security disability benefits attorneys is about how the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether a person meets the earnings requirement. The earnings requirement actually consists of two separate earnings tests. They are called the “recent work” test and the “duration of work” test. You must meet both in order to qualify for benefits in most cases.

Recent Work Test

The “recent work” test requires you to have worked within a certain time frame before you became disabled. If you become disabled before age 24, you generally need to have worked for 1.5 years during the previous three years. From ages 24 to 31, you need to have worked for half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. After age 31, you need to have worked for at least five of the past 10 years.

Duration of Work Test

In addition to having worked within a certain amount of time before your disability began, you must also have worked for a certain number of years in your lifetime. These also depend on your age. For instance, if you are disabled before age 28, you need 1.5 years of total work – including work that doesn’t meet the recent work test. After age 28, the required total amount of work time increases by about half a year for every year of age. Your attorney can help you calculate specifically how much work you need, and how recently you must have done the work, in order to qualify for SSD benefits.

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