What are the earnings requirements for Social Security disability benefits?

In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you will have to meet two separate qualifications: you will have to prove that you are disabled by Social Security Administration (SSA) standards, and you must have worked at a job where you paid into Social Security long enough to collect benefits.

To determine if you meet the earnings requirements for disability, the SSA will examine both how long you have worked (duration of work) and when you last paid into Social Security (recent work).

Duration of Work

The SSA uses the duration of work test to make sure you have worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits based upon the age at which you became disabled. Generally, in order to be eligible to receive benefits, Generally you must have worked five out of the last ten  years. For workers under age 31 less quarters are required. If you qualify now but stop working you may not qualify in the future.

Recent Work

Under the rules of the recent work test, you must have worked for a certain number of years within a certain period. For example:

  • If you are disabled before age 24, you will need to have worked at least 1.5 years during the three-year period that ends in the quarter that your disability began.
  • If you are disabled after age 24 but before age 31, you will need to have worked at least half the time between the quarter you turned 21 to the quarter when you became disabled.
  • If you are disabled at age 31 or later, you will need to have worked five years out of the 10-year period ending with the quarter when you became disabled.

If you are unsure if you qualify for benefits, we can help. Order our free informational guide, Why You Should Hire an Attorney to Handle Your Social Security Disability Claim, by clicking the link at the top of this page or email us with your questions at [email protected].

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska