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U.S. Disability Benefits - Number of Credits Needed to Claim

Outline: Information and chart regarding the number of work credits you need for claiming disability benefits in the United States.

Main Digest

The definition of disability under U.S Social Security is different than other programs. U.S. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.

The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you became disabled.

Generally you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn up to a maximum of four "credits" for each year. The way you earn a credit has changed over the years.

Before 1978, employers reported your earnings every 3 months and we called credits "quarters of coverage," or QCs. Back then, you got a QC or credit if you earned at least $50 in a 3-month calendar quarter.

In 1978, employers started reporting your earnings just once a year. Credits are now based on your total wages and self-employment income during the year, no matter when you did the actual work. You might work all year to earn four credits, or you might earn enough for all four in a much shorter length of time.

The amount of earnings it takes to earn a credit has changed since 1978. In the year 2014, you must earn $1,200 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit and $4,800 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

The current rules:

Unless you are blind, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.

Born after 1929 - Became Disabled At Age:Number of Credits You Need:
31 through 4220
4422
4624
4826
5028
5230
5432
5634
5836
6038
62 or older40

Notes:

Receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60.
- Begin receiving benefits as early as age 50 if you are disabled AND the disability started before or within seven years of the worker's death.

Contact your local U.S. Department of Social Security for full and Current criteria.

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