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Understanding SSD work credits

Most people in Missouri understand that a person must be completely disabled to become eligible for Social Security Disability ("SSD") benefits, but the extent of a person's disability is not the only criterion that determines eligibility. A person must also have worked for a minimum number of weeks or years to become eligible. The Social Security Administration uses a system of "work credits" to determine if a person has worked long enough when it evaluates an SSD claim.

Prior to 1978, work credits were determined based upon work performed in a calendar quarter, or every three months. After 1978, the SSA switched to the entire calendar year to determine credits. Work credits are now based upon work performed and wages earned during the entire year, regardless of when the work was performed. For example, a person might do enough work and earn enough money to earn the annual maximum of four credits in the first six months of the year and fail to earn any credits during the remaining six months. Nevertheless, the person's total for the year is still four credits. Under current law, a person receives one credit for every $1,260 in earnings, up to a maximum of four credits per year.

The number of credits required to meet minimum eligibility depends upon the worker's age. If a person becomes disabled between the ages of 31 through 42, he or she must have earned 20 credits. The minimum number of credits increases by one per year up to a maximum of 40 credits by age 62. The minimum number of credits does not increase after a person reaches age 62.

Anyone considering making an application for SSD benefits may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in handling such claims. A lawyer who is knowledgeable about the SSD system can provide helpful advice about the kinds of information, such as employment history and medical records, that are necessary to complete a persuasive application. An experienced attorney can also answer questions about basic eligibility requirements and provided advice about appellate rights if an application should be denied.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Benefits Planner: Social Security Credits," accessed on May 2, 2016

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