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What are Social Security disability work credits?

Most Houston residents who are wondering about obtaining Social Security disability benefits pay most of their attention to the nature of their illness or injury and its disabling effects. A third factor must also be considered -- whether the person has accumulated enough work credits to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

A person earns work credits by earning money in a job that is covered by the Social Security system. In 2019, a person receives one work credit for each $1,360 of covered earnings. The number of credits that can be earned in a single year is four, regardless of the person's total income. Thus, when a person has earned $5,440, he or she cannot earn any further credits in that calendar year. Work credits are permanent. The Social Security Administration maintains a record of every person's earnings and work credits. A person can leave and then return to a job covered by Social Security, and the number of accumulated work credits will be remain the same.

The number of credits that are necessary to confer eligibility for disability benefits depends upon the claimant's age when the disabling injury or illness occurred. Persons who are disabled at ages 31 through 42 must accumulate 20 credits in five years of work. The number of necessary credits then increases by two every two years; the number of years of work increases by six months every two years. A person who is aged 62 or older must have accumulated 40 credits in 10 years of work to become fully qualified.

Most workers have no difficulty earning a qualifying number of work credits, but persons who may have taken a lengthy time away from work, or worked in another country may find they run the risk of failing to earn the required number of work credits. The work credit system has a number of gray areas that can complicate the application process. A lawyer experienced in handling SSD claims can often provide useful advice in these areas.

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