Q: How to be Qualified for Social Security Disability Benefits
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. That means that if you worked “off the books”, your employer did not pay into the disability insurance program and you will not be eligible for SSDI benefits. In addition to meeting the definition of disability, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for disability benefits. The SSA determines if you are eligible by looking at your “work credits.”
Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. If you qualify to apply for benefits by your work history, you must also have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability.