Protect Your Eligibility for Disability by Earning Enough Credits

Posted on January 6th, 2014

At Eric Buchanan & Associates, we are often asked by clients, “should I stop working?” Our answer is that you should always follow your doctors’ advice, and stop working if your doctor tells you to. But, if you can keep working, the vast majority of people are better off working than being on disability. However, if your medical condition is so bad that you have to stop working or your doctor tells you to stop, we are here to help you with your disability claim.

However, sometimes we have to tell people that, if they can possibly do it, they need to work a little while longer to be sure they have earned enough work credits to be able to draw social security disability. One of the toughest conversations we sometimes have to have with a client is to tell someone that they have not earned enough “credits” to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

The first “test” of your eligibility for regular social security benefits is whether you have earned enough “credits.” If you paid FICA taxes on enough income for five out of the last ten years prior to becoming disabled, you will probably be eligible for benefits. But, if you have not worked enough recently and paid FICA taxes, your application will likely be immediately denied before a claims processor even examines the nature and extent of your disability.

Social Security awards “credits” for earned taxable income. The maximum number of credits that can be earned in a year is four. In 2012, for every $1,130 you earned (and paid taxes on), you received a credit; when you earned at least $4,520 in 2012, you will have earned the maximum number of credits allowed in that year. In 2013, you need to earn at least $1160 for one quarter of coverage, or $4640 to earn the four full credits for the year.

One thing to note is your credits gradually expire. You need to have worked five of the last ten years or the equivalent in order to ensure that you can qualify, and have your claim be considered. While the most you can earn is 4 credits per year, if you work a little bit, you can earn one, two or three credits in a year. In order to have enough credits, you need to have 20 credits out of the last ten years. If you’re wondering if you do have enough credits, you can always check with your local Social Security Administration office.

However, if you do not have enough work credits, SSA has another disability program, called Supplemental Security Income, or “SSI.” Some people are poor enough that, even without work credits, they can get disability benefits under SSI, if they are disabled. If you apply for disability benefits, SSA will determine whether you could qualify either by having enough credits or by being poor enough for SSI.

Getting Legal Help

The experienced disability team at Eric Buchanan & Associates has handled thousands of disability claims, and has many years of experience in disability insurance, ERISA long term disability and Social Security disability law. Give us a call today at 877-634-2506 or email us at to set up your appointment.