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How work credits affect SSDI eligibility

Most people in Missouri are aware that a person must be totally disabled in order to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. However, eligibility for SSDI benefits also depends upon whether the person filing an SSD claim has accumulated a sufficient number of what the Social Security Administration calls "work credits."

The federal regulations that govern the SSDI program require that an applicant must have paid in a specified amount of money in order to be eligible for benefits. These payments are called "work credits," and they are accumulated when a worker pays a portion of their wages in Social Security taxes (usually identified as "FICA Taxes" on a paycheck). Starting in 1978, employers are required to report their employees' earnings on an annual basis. The Social Security Administration uses this information to calculate a person's work credits. In 2016, a person earned one work credit for every $1,260 in covered earnings up to $5,040 or four credits in one year.

The number of work credits required for disability benefits varies with the applicant's age at the onset of disability. Persons who become disabled between the ages of 31 and 42 must have 20 work credits to be eligible for SSDI benefits. The minimum number of work credits increases by 2 for every two years in age. A person who is 62 or older at the onset of disability must have accumulated 40 work credits to be eligible for SSDI benefits. Also, 20 of the credits must have been earned in the last 10 years prior to the occurrence of the disability.

When a person files an application for SSD benefits, the SSA field office will calculate the applicant's number of accumulated work credits. If the amount of work credits is sufficient, the application will be forwarded to an officer for review of the medical and employment information. If the applicant does not have enough work credits, the application will be rejected without further consideration.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Benefits Planner: Social Security Credits," accessed on Dec. 18, 2016

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