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In addition to having a qualifying medical condition, individuals must have enough work points to be eligible for Social Security disability. Also called work credits, these points demonstrate a history of paying taxes toward the SSDI program.

Understanding how to calculate work credits can help those who have a disability decide whether to apply for SSDI.

Value of work credits

The amount you need to earn in an eligible job to receive a work point changes each year. For 2019, workers can receive up to four credits each year, one for every $1,360 in earnings. Your points remain on your record even as the earnings amount per point increases annually.

Age of disability

The number of work credits needed to receive SSDI depends on how old you were when you became disabled, as follows:

  • Individuals younger than 24 must have earned at least six work points in the three years before the onset of disability.
  • Individuals ages 24 to 30 must earn four credits a year for half the years between age 21 and the onset of disability. For example, if you became disabled at age 27, you must show three years of work credits (12 points).
  • Individuals ages 31 to 42 must earn at least 20 credits in the 10 years before the onset of disability.
  • The number of required credits gradually increases each year between ages 42 and 62, with a maximum of 40 required credits for those older than 62.

Ineligible forms of employment

Not every type of job provides work credits. Workers who may not be eligible for SSDI coverage include federal employees who started work before 1984, employees of state and local governments that do not participate in Social Security and railroad employees with more than 10 years on the job.

If you are not sure how many work credits you have, check your most recent W-2 form. This document includes your lifelong earnings record, which indicates the number of work points you have earned to date.