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

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-08-11 (Revised/Updated 2015-01-23) - Information and chart regarding the number of work credits you need for claiming disability benefits in the United States - Disabled World (Disabled World).

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Quote: "Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security."

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:

  • Before age 24 - You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts.
  • Age 24 to 31 - You may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).
  • Age 31 or older - In general, you need to have the number of work credits shown in the chart below.

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
62 or older40


  • You do not earn credits for pension payments or for interest or dividends on savings and investments. You do not pay Social Security tax on that kind of income.
  • If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.
  • If you are the widow or widower of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can:

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.

  • For a child with a disability to receive benefits on your record after age 18, the disabling impairment must have started before age 22, and he or she must meet the definition of disability for adults.
  • An adult disabled before age 22 may be eligible for child's benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits.
  • Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application.

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

Related Information:

  1. New Social Security Policy for Same Sex Relationships - United States Social Security Administration - (2014-06-28)
  2. Workers Over 50 Applying for Disability Benefits - Special Rules - Law Offices of Judith S. Leland, APLC - (2014-04-03)
  3. Government Benefits for People with Disabilities - - (2014-04-18)

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