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Have You Worked Enough to Qualify for Disability?

Some of the most frequent questions I get have to do with whether an individual has enough earnings to qualify for the Title II Disability program. This is the “non-medical” requirement that is mentioned in some of those letters you get from Social Security.

Here is how this works. As you work and pay taxes, you are contributing to an account in your name with Social Security. For Social Security retirement, SSA looks at your lifetime earnings and calculates your retirement benefit based on your lifetime earnings record. Disability does not work on a lifetime earnings calculation. Instead, Social Security disability looks at the last five to ten years (a shorter look back applies to younger workers).

In order to be “fully insured” for disability, you need to have at least 20 credits in your account within the last ten years (fewer credits may be required for workers in their teens or twenties). It is possible to earn a maximum of 4 credits per year. Over ten years, therefore, you can earn a maximum of 40 credits (4 x 10). If you have earned 20 credits during the ten years prior to the onset of your disability (when you stopped working), you are insured for disability purposes.

For 2006, you needed $970 of gross earnings to earn a quarter of credit. Once you earned $3,880 in 2006, you will have earned all four possible credits. Even if you earn the $3,880 all in January, you have maxed out your credits for 2006.  For 2007, you needed $1,000 of gross earnings to earn a quarter of credit – $4,000 will earn you four credits.  For 2008, you need $1,050 of gross earnings to earn a quarter of credit, and $4,200 to earn 4 credits for the year.  Earnings requirements to earn a credit for prior years are as follows:

  • 2013 – $1,160, $4,640 for the year
  • 2012 –  $1,130, $4,520 for the year
  • 2011 –  $1,120, $4,480 for the year
  • 2010 – $1,120, $4,480 for the year
  • 2009 – $1,090, $4,360 for the year
  • 2008 – $1,050, $4,200 for the year
  • 2007 – $1,000, $4,000 for the year
  • 2006 – $970, $3,880 for the year
  • 2005 – $920, $3,860 for the year
  • 2004 – $900, $3,600 for the year
  • 2003 – $890, $3,560 for the year
  • 2002 – $870, $3,480 for the year
  • 2001 – $830, $3,320 for the year
  • 2000 – $780, $3,120 for the year
  • 1999 – $740, $2,960 for the year
  • 1998 – $700, $2,800 for the year
  • 1997 – $670, $2,680 for the year
  • 1996 – $640, $2,560 for the year
  • 1995 – $630, $2,520 for the year
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