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Although most people need to have worked for at least ten years in jobs that paid into the Social Security system to be eligible for disability benefits, there is some flexibility on that general rule for younger employees. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has rules based on your age when you became disabled. 

A Texas disability attorney can help you with the application process and answer your questions about whether you can qualify for disability benefits if you have not worked for very long.

What Is the Required Number of Work Credits for Most Adults?

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program is only available for people who paid enough money for enough years into the Social Security system. As the name indicates, SSDI is a type of insurance. If you do not pay insurance premiums, you cannot collect insurance benefits. Workers pay into the Social Security system with the money their employers deduct from their paychecks.

Most adults must have earned at least 40 work credits to qualify for disability benefits through SSDI. You can get one work credit for paying Social Security taxes on at least $1,470 of wages, salary, or self-employment income per quarter. You can earn up to four work credits a year. If you work every quarter for ten straight years, earn enough money, and contribute to the Social Security system on that income, you can get the required 40 work credits. 

Twenty of the work credits must be from the last ten years before you became disabled. The work credit requirement is a two-part rule. The duration test is 40 work credits, and the recent work test is earning 20 of the credits during the ten years before getting disabled.

How Many Work Credits Do Younger Workers Need? 

Younger workers have not had as much time to earn work credits as older employees. For example, if a person in his early twenties becomes disabled, he has not been employed for ten years because he was in school. In the interest of fairness, the Social Security Administration uses these rules for younger workers:

  • If you become disabled before the age of 24 years, you might qualify for SSDI benefits based on your work record if you earned at least six work credits in the three years immediately before becoming disabled.
  • For people who become disabled between the ages of 24 and 31, the general rule is that you need work credits for at least half of the time between age 21 and the point at which you became disabled.
  • People who are 31 years or older when they become disabled need at least 20 work credits in the ten years immediately before becoming disabled.

Just like the general rule for older adults, the rules for younger workers have two parts, a duration test, and a recent work test.

What if You Do Not Have Enough Work Credits for Your Age?

People who do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits might be able to collect Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. This program does not require any work credits, but it has strict limits on the amount of income and assets you can have and still be eligible for. 

A Texas disability attorney can talk to you about your options for disability benefits and help you appeal an adverse decision. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.