How Much Work Do I Need To Qualify For Disability?

Social Security pays benefits through two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. As an insurance program, SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) requires you work and have FICA deducted from earnings while you work. SSI does not require a work history but uses low income and low resources as qualifying criteria.

Today, we’ll look at how much work is required for SSDI.

How do I meet the earnings requirement for disability benefits?
In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:
1. A recent work test, based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
2. A duration of work test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.
Certain blind workers have to meet only the duration of work test.
The following table shows the rules for how much work you need for the recent work test, based on your age when your disability began. We base the rules in this table on the calendar quarter in which you turned or will turn a certain age.
The calendar quarters are:
First Quarter: January 1 through March 31
Second Quarter: April 1 through June 30
Third Quarter: July 1 through September 30
Fourth Quarter: October 1 through December 31
If you become disabled… Then you generally need:
In or before the quarter you turn age 24 1.5 years of work during the three-year period ending with the quarter your disability began.
In the quarter after you turn age 24 but before the quarter you turn age 31 Work during half the time for the period beginning with the quarter after you turned 21 and ending with the quarter you became disabled. Example: If you become disabled in the quarter you turned age 27, then you would need three years of work out of the six-year period ending with the quarter you became disabled.
In the quarter you turn age 31 or later Work during five years out of the 10-year period ending with the quarter your disability began.
The following table shows examples of how much work you need to meet the duration of work test if you become disabled at various selected ages. For the duration of work test, your work doesn’t have to fall within a certain period of time.
NOTE: This table doesn’t cover all situations.
If you become disabled… Then you generally need:
Before age 28 1.5 years of work
Age 30 2 years
Age 34 3 years
Age 38 4 years
Age 42 5 years
Age 44 5.5 years
Age 46 6 years
Age 48 6.5 years
Age 50 7 years
Age 52 7.5 years
Age 54 8 years
Age 56 8.5 years
Age 58 9 years
Age 60 9.5 years

No one ever likes to consider what would happen if they became disabled, but you need to know if you would have enough work.