You cannot get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits without enough work credits, but you might qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. The SSDI program requires work credits, but the SSI program does not.
If your application is approved for SSI benefits, you could receive monthly cash payments, health insurance, and back pay dating from the month you originally submitted your application.
An Overview of Work Credits
The number of credits required to qualify for SSDI varies by age. You do not want to assume that you do not have enough work credits based on the facts of another person’s situation.
Let’s look at the following scenario to explain the work credit system. Let’s say that you worked with a 50-year-old man who became too ill to work because of Parkinson’s disease. He had only worked at a job that paid into Social Security for five years. The Social Security Administration (SSA) says that most people need at least 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. You can earn up to four work credits a year. In this situation, your friend would only have 20 work credits.
If you worked at the same place of employment for five years and became disabled, you might assume that you do not have enough work credits, but that assumption might be incorrect. If you are 35 years old, you only need 20 work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits, not 40. Again, your age and how long you worked a job that paid into Social Security will determine how many work credits you need to apply for SSDI.
How You Earn Work Credits
You earn one work credit for every three-month block (quarter) that you work a job that pays into Social Security. You “buy” into Social Security through payroll taxes. For the year 2020, the SSA says that you must earn at least $1,410 per quarter to earn a single work credit, and $5,640 in a year to earn four work credits.
A person who works 30 years, for example, at qualifying jobs, can earn up to 120 work credits.
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Why SSDI Requires Work Credits
As the acronym indicates, SSDI is an insurance program. You pay the “premiums” through the Social Security deductions that your boss takes out of your paycheck and sends to the government on your behalf. That money helps to fund the monthly Social Security disability and retirement checks that people receive.
The source of funding for SSI benefits, on the other hand, is general revenues, like income taxes and additional money that the government collects. Because SSI does not use payroll deductions for Social Security taxes as its source of funding, you do not have to pay into the system and accumulate work credits to be eligible for these benefits.
How to Qualify for SSI Benefits
You can get Social Security disability benefits even if you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. The SSA offers the SSI program to disabled adults and children who have limited financial resources. As we mentioned before, if you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you could qualify for SSI.
You have to meet the same medical disability standards as a person does for SSDI. Your income must be low, and your countable assets cannot exceed the limit for SSI. SSI is a safety net so that people who cannot work for a living but cannot collect SSDI can pay for essential items, like food, clothing, and shelter.
SSI has these requirements:
- You have a severe illness or injury that meets the benchmarks of the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, also called “the Blue Book.”
- Your disability prevents you from supporting yourself through gainful employment.
- You must have very little income. This number can change every year. Because SSI is a joint program of the federal and state government, the income limit varies by location.
- Your countable assets must not exceed the SSI limit. This number can also change every year. Your home and the land it is on do not count as assets. Most cars do not count toward your resources. The asset limit is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.
You must satisfy all of these elements to be eligible for SSI benefits.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Apply for Disability Benefits
An attorney can help you get Social Security disability benefits if you do not have enough work credits. The law does not require you to work with a lawyer on the application and evaluation process for SSI, but it can be a smart idea to do so.
Every year, thousands of qualifying individuals are denied Social Security disability benefits because of errors they made on their application. Many people have to file an appeal of a denial of benefits to get the assistance they need.
At Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, we work hard to help people who cannot work due to a disability. You can call us today at (828) 286-3866 for a free consultation.