Do you still qualify for SSDI if not working when injured?

If you become injured and unable to work while currently unemployed, you may wonder if you still qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The answer largely depends on your work history. 

You must be fully and currently insured to receive SSDI benefits. “Fully and currently insured” means that you earned enough work credits for your age before becoming disabled. If you earned enough credits, you may qualify for coverage. 

Earning credits 

Being fully and currently insured does not mean that you currently work or pay into the Social Security system. Rather, according to the Social Security Administration, it means that you worked enough to earn one-quarter of coverage for every year after you turned 21 through the year you became disabled. To earn a credit, you do not have to work one-quarter of every year — rather, you must simply earn $1,410. You can earn a maximum of four credits every year. Most people earn far more credits than the minimum number necessary to become eligible for benefits. 

Work credit requirements 

To qualify for disability benefits, you must pass both the duration work test and the recent work test. Your age dictates the number of credits you need to pass the latter: 

  • If you were 24 or younger when you become disabled, you need a minimum of six work credits from the three years leading up to your injury. 
  • If you are between the ages of 24 and 31, you may qualify if you worked at least half the number of years since turning 21 and the age you acquired your disability. For instance, if you become disabled at 29, you would need four years of work history, or 16 credits, to qualify for SSDI. 
  • If you are older than 31, the general rule of thumb is that you must have at least 20 work credits accrued over the 10 years prior to your disability. 

The duration work test just tells you how many years you must have worked based on your age. For instance, for a 28-year-old to qualify for SSDI, he or she must have 1.5 years of work history. For a 50-year-old to qualify, he or she must have seven years of work history. The work does not have to fall within a certain timeframe. 

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