As long as you have the required number of work credits and meet the program’s medical requirements, you can be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This means there is not necessarily an “earliest age” someone can be eligible for SSDI. However, state laws and individual company rules play a role in determining how old a person has to be to hire them.

Since SSDI is a government-run disability insurance program funded by payroll tax dollars, you get approved for benefits only if you have paid a sufficient amount into the system.

Work Credits Determine Eligibility

To calculate what you have paid, the program assigns work credits based on the amount of taxable income you earn each year. The older you are at the time you become disabled, the more work credits you need to qualify for SSDI. If you are under 24 years old, you can get approval having worked only 1.5 years.

How Do I Receive Work Credits for SSDI Eligibility?

You receive work credits simply by working and paying payroll taxes. You can begin receiving these credits as young as 16 years older—maybe even younger if your state allows it. You earn one work credit for each $1,320 in taxable earnings in a given year.

The catch is, you can earn a maximum of only four credits per year. Once you have $5,280 for the year, you have officially maxed out your credits and cannot earn any more until the following year.

In other words, a person earning $10,000 per year and a person earning $10 million per year accumulate credits at the same rate: four per year. Accordingly, your SSDI benefit eligibility is based not as much on how much money you make per year as it is on how many years you have worked.

How Many Work Credits Do I Need to Qualify for SSDI?

Your age determines the number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI, with younger workers needing fewer credits to be eligible. If you are under 24 years old, you need six credits, which translates to 1.5 years of full-time work. If you are 24 to 30 years old, you need between eight and 18 credits.

If you are 31 to 42 years old, you need 20 credits (or five years of full-time work). After age 42, you can calculate your required credits by subtracting 22 from your age. So, at 50 years old you would need 28 credits, or seven years of work.

An Example of How Work Credits Apply

Suppose you started working at 16 years old. You worked full-time hours during the summer, plus evenings and some weekends during the school year, and your earnings for the year exceeded $5,280. So you received four work credits for the year. You did the same thing at age 17, earning four more credits.

Entering your 18th year, then, you would have eight credits, which is two more than you need to qualify for SSDI. That means you could suffer a disabling injury at the age of 18 and be able to receive benefits, though the amount you would receive would be much lower than, say, a 55-year-old who has worked full-time their entire life.

What if I Do Not Have Enough Work Credits to Qualify for SSDI?

No matter your age—whether you are 18 or 60—you must have the required number of work credits to receive SSDI. Remember, it is an insurance program, and payroll taxes effectively serve as your premiums. Without having paid enough in premiums, you cannot make a claim for benefits. The work credit system, while imperfect, measures how much you have paid in premiums relative to your age.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

If you have too few works credits to qualify for SSDI, you still have options for receiving Social Security disability. Another program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is available even if you have never paid a dime of payroll tax in your life. In fact, SSI is means-tested and is available exclusively to those who have low incomes and limited assets.

Since it is a benefit program, it has firm caps on how much you can make and how much you can own. If you are not sure whether you qualify for SSDI or SSI, a disability attorney can review your financial situation and let you know.

To Schedule a Free Case Evaluation With a Social Security Disability Attorney, Call the Disability Advantage Group, at 865-566-0800

If you cannot work because of a medical condition, you could be eligible to receive SSDI or SSI benefits. An attorney from the Disability Advantage Group, can review your situation, answer your questions, and help you build a compelling claim. We offer a free, no-risk case evaluation.

To speak with one of our attorneys, call 865-566-0800 today.