Social Security Disability: Determining Insured Status
By: Disability Group (www.socialsecuritylaw.com)
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits? Some of the most confusing factors in determining your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits are your “credits” and your “insured” status. They can be simple to figure out, however, with a bit of patience.
Credits and Earnings
Quarters of credit – also called “credits” – are obtained when you earn more than a certain amount in a year, varying by each year (the Social Security Administration’s website provides a handy table to see what the cutoff is for a given year). You can earn a maximum of 4 credits in any year: for example, the earnings required for 1 credit in 2007 was $1,000, so anything more than $4,000 would only result in 4 credits.
The number of credits you need to be eligible for disability benefits will depend on your age when you became disabled:
- Before age 24 – You will need to earn at least 6 credits in the 3 years immediately before when your disability started.
- Example: You become disabled at age 22. You earned 1 credit at age 19, 2 credits at age 20, and 3 credits at age 21. You have 6 credits, and may qualify for disability benefits.
- Age 24 to 31 – You will need credits for working half the time between age 21 and when your disability started.
- Example: You become disabled at age 27. That is 6 years between age 21 and when your disability started. You will need credits for working half of that time, or 3 years. SSA holds that a year of work equals 4 credits, so you will need 4 x 3 or 12 credits to qualify for disability benefits.
- Age 31 or older – You will need at least 20 credits, increasing with age until the maximum of 40 (the SSA website provides another handy table to determine how many credits you need based on your age).
To be considered “disability insured” by SSA, you must meet two separate requirements:
- You must earn 1 credit for each year between age 21 and when you became disabled (sometimes called “fully insured”)
- Example: You are 45 when you become disabled. That is 24 years between age 21 and when your disability started. You will need at least 24 credits to be considered “fully insured.”
- You must earn at least 20 credits in the 10-year period before you became disabled (sometimes called “currently insured”)
- Example: You are 45 when you become disabled. You were employed since age 38, resulting in 28 credits (7 years x 4 credits). You earned more than 20 credits in the 10-year period before you became disabled, and would be considered “currently insured.”
There are separate rules for claimants with previous disabilities, claimants who are under 31, and claimants who are statutorily blind (speak with an attorney or with SSA for these specific rules).
Credits and insured status are bars that many people would not even think about when they become disabled, but they are no less important than the medical evidence and hearing process that come later. Knowing where you stand now can save you time and frustration later, and speaking to an attorney can be the easiest way to determine if you are eligible.