Understanding SSDI Work Credits and How They Can Help and Hurt Your SSDI Application

Are you considering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? If so, SSDI work credits will play a key role in your application.

As an SSDI appeals lawyer, I see many clients confused about work credits. But this critical part of SSDI can significantly impact the success of your application.

Let’s break down what work credits are, how you earn them, and how they can either help or hurt your application for SSDI benefits.

What Are SSDI Work Credits?

SSDI essentially functions as an insurance program. You pay into the system through your work and taxes. Then if you ever can’t earn an income because of a disability, you can apply for benefits to help.

Work credits are essentially the building blocks of your eligibility for SSDI. They’re based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income.

You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a single credit changes each year; in 2023, for example, you could earn one credit for each $1,640 of wages or self-employment income, and you had to earn $6,560 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

Why Do Work Credits Matter?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses these credits to determine whether you have worked long enough—and recently enough—under Social Security to qualify for SSDI benefits.

The number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI depends on your age at the time you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years leading up to your disability.

That said, younger workers might qualify with fewer credits. If you have questions about whether you qualify, our Memphis SSDI lawyers can help.

How Can Work Credits Help Your SSDI Application?

First, work credits establish your eligibility. This is one of the first things the SSA looks at when considering your case. If you can show you have enough work credits, it tells them to move forward with your application and consider the rest of the information you submitted.

Second, work credits demonstrate your recent work history. Earning enough credits, especially within the last 10 years, shows that you have been part of the workforce recently and increases your chance of approval.

How Can Work Credits Hurt Your SSDI Application?

The most straightforward way work credits can hurt your application is if you don’t have enough of them. This is a common issue for young workers who haven’t been in the workforce long or those who have long gaps in their employment history.

In addition, if most of your credits were earned long before the last 10 years, you might not meet the ‘recent work’ requirement. This can be particularly problematic for individuals who have taken significant time off from work, such as stay-at-home parents or those pursuing education.

That said, applicants can make mistakes, and the SSA can, too. If you believe you have enough work credits and still can’t get SSDI, talk today with one of our attorneys.

What Can You Do?

If you’re worried about how work credits will affect your SSDI application, or if you’ve already been denied benefits due to insufficient credits, here’s where we can help.

The SSA denies the majority of applications on the first try. After that, you have 60 days to launch an appeal. And for that part of the process, you really should work with a lawyer.

We help analyze your work history to determine if you have earned enough credits and to make sure the SSA correctly calculated your eligibility. If additional evidence might influence the decision, we gather it and present it at a hearing.

In addition, we help strengthen your appeal by compiling medical records, expert testimony, and other key evidence to back up your disability claim.

And we don’t get paid anything unless and until we win. Even then, it’s just a small fraction of your past-due benefits – you keep every dollar moving forward.

If you need SSDI, don’t get stuck in the weeds on work credits or other application problems. Let’s work together to secure the benefits you deserve. Contact us online using the form on this page or call us at 901-327-2100.