Work Credits and Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

earning enough work credits for disability benefitsAside from meeting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of a disability, you need to have worked long enough to have earned enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits. The number of work credits required varies by age. You must also have a certain amount of credits earned in the years before you became disabled.

For help with your disability claim, set up a free case review with one of our reputable Social Security Disability lawyers in Oshkosh today. We are ready to help determine if you have earned enough work credits and discuss your options if you do not have enough credits for Social Security Disability.

What is a Work Credit?

Work credits are credits earned throughout your work history. Every year that you earn wages and pay Social Security taxes, you are receiving work credits. These work credits are required in order to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, retirement benefits and Medicare benefits.

How Are Work Credits Earned?

You can earn up to four work credits every year. The amount of work credits earned will depend on your employment activity and earnings. The minimum income needed to earn work credits typically changes on an annual basis, based on national wage trends. In 2021, you can earn one work credit for every $1,470 in wages or self-employment income. This is an increase of $60 from $1,410 in 2020.

This means that once you have earned $5,880, you have earned your four credits for the year and cannot earn any more credits until next year.

It is important to note that the number of credits only impacts your eligibility for disability and not the amount of benefits you receive. Your average earnings over the years you work will determine the amount of your monthly benefits. 

Work Credits Needed for SSDI Benefits

The number of work credits needed to qualify for disability benefits will depend on your age. Generally, you need to have earned at total of 20 work credits within the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled. However, there are age exceptions to this rule. Younger workers may be able to qualify with less credits.

If you are disabled at age 31 or older, you must have at least 20 work credits within the last 10 years immediately prior to becoming disabled. The number of credits needed will increase by one each year until aged 62 or older, maxing out at 40 work credits required for retirement benefits.

If you are between the ages of 24 and 31, you may qualify if you earned work credits at least half the time between age 21 and the time you became disabled. For instance, if you become disabled at age 27, you will need three years of work, equivalent to 12 work credits, within the past six years to qualify.

If you are under 24, you need to have earned at least six work credits in the three years before you became disabled.

In addition to earning work credits, you must also pass two different earnings tests to qualify for disability benefits – a recent work test and a duration of work test.

What If I Do Not Have Enough Work Credits?

If you do not have the proper work history, you will not be able to qualify for SSDI benefits. However, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if you meet the financial limits of the program. There is no work requirement for this program.

Reach Out to Our Legal Team Today

Sigman Janssen is here to help you obtain the disability benefits you need. We know how intimidating the application process can be, which is why we are prepared to guide you every step of the way to ensure that you have the necessary documentation to strengthen your application.

Our legal team is also prepared to advise you of the initial steps to appeal a denied disability claim during your free consultation. You are under no obligation after this meeting to hire us and we charge nothing up front if you decide to work with our firm. We only get paid if we help you obtain benefits.

Gives us a call at (877) 888-5201

What is the First Step in Appealing a Denied Disability Claim?

first step to appeal a denied disability claimIf you have applied for Social Security Disability and your claim has been denied, it is important not to give up on pursuing the disability benefits you may be eligible to receive. Most initial applications are denied. However, you have the right to appeal the decision. The first step in the appeals process is to file a request for reconsideration with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

A Green Bay Social Security Disability attorney from our firm is prepared to guide you through the appeals process and build a strong case on your behalf to help obtain the disability benefits you need. A consultation with a member of our legal team is 100 percent free of charge and completely confidential.

Filing a Request for Reconsideration

If the SSA denies your claim, you will receive a letter stating why you were denied disability benefits and informing you of your right to appeal. If you decide to appeal the decision, you must generally file for reconsideration within 60 days from the date you received the letter. You can request an appeal online for a reconsideration if were denied for medical reasons or you disagree with a non-medical decision.

Appealing online would require the date of the denial decision and submitting new or updated medical information since your initial claim. Once the appeal is completed, a cover letter with instructions would be issued on how to send any additional supportive documentation via mail.

If you decide to not appeal online, there are three different forms that must be submitted with your Request for Reconsideration. Aside from the official appeal form, there is the Reconsideration Disability Report, which is used to provide new or additional information about your claim and the Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration, which is essentially a medical release form.

After filing for reconsideration, your claim would be sent back to the Social Security office for review. The same office that handled your initial claim would also be handling your Request for Reconsideration. However, your claim would be reviewed by a different examiner this time. He or she will go over all of the evidence already submitted and any new evidence submitted for reconsideration.

Handling the Reconsideration Process

During the reconsideration process, it is important to provide the SSA with as much updated information as possible with regard to your regular doctor visits, new treatments you have undergone and any work-related activity, if it is applicable. The outcome of your claim may depend heavily on this information.

Be sure to also review your initial claim when filing for reconsideration. Look through the application and the records you submitted. You may uncover important information that was either unintentionally omitted or limiting the first time around. A lawyer can help you gather the necessary information for your appeal and make sure that you are not missing any key evidence.

Although you have 60 days to submit your request for reconsideration, it is important to file as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to receive a reconsideration decision.

When You Should File for Reconsideration

Appealing a decision works the same way whether you were denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Some things to take into consideration include:

  • Does your condition meet the SSA’s listing of impairments? Your condition does not necessarily have to be on the list in order to qualify for disability benefits. The SSA will have to decide if your condition is as severe as a medical condition on the list.
  • Is your condition severe enough to last for at least a year or end in death? Your condition can be physical, mental or a combination of the two.
  • Are you still able to earn substantial income? You cannot earn more than the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit. For 2020, this is $1,260 for non-blind applicants and $2,110 for those who are blind.
  • Can you still do your job or other similar work? The SSA may look at your work history dating back as far as 15 years ago to determine your ability to work given the limits of your condition. 

How Long Will the Entire Process Take?

The length of time it takes to receive a reconsideration decision would be based on how quickly the examiner is able to receive your updated medical information and whether additional documentation is necessary. On average, it can take between three to five months from the time you submit the request for reconsideration to receive a decision from the SSA.

If you request for reconsideration is denied, you have the option to appeal the decision further.

See How We May Be Able to Help

Your chance of successfully appealing a denied disability claim likely increases with an experienced lawyer by your side. At Sigman Janssen, we are well-versed in all the steps of the appeals process and are prepared to review your claim during a free legal consultation. You are under no obligation to retain our services.

Read what some of our clients have to say about our firm. There is no risk in calling us to learn about your options and no fees up front or while we work on your case. You only pay us if you obtain benefits.

We are standing by to take your call: (877) 888-5201.