- Social Security retirement benefits, which are paid automatically once you reach a certain age (age 65 for most of us), look at your lifelong work history
- Social Security disability, by contrast, looks only at the 10 year period prior to your disability onset to determine your eligibility for SSDI benefits and the amount of your payment. If you have worked and earned approximately $5,000 per year (approx. $1,300 per quarter) for five out of the 10 years under Social Security before becoming disabled, you will have enough earnings in to potentially qualify for Social Security disability benefits 1. For individuals 31 or less, the requirements are a little different, since such individuals have not had such a long time to work.
A person who has worked 10+ years, but has not worked during the last 10 years would have qualified earnings for Social Security retirement, but not for disability. This 10 year look back in the disability program can create problems for women (or men) who have stayed home to raise their families after working for several years and now find themselves medically disabled in their 50’s or 60’s. In these cases, SSI may be available, or such a person may be able to claim benefits as a widow/widower if their spouse or former spouse has died.
The duration of your work history will determine if you qualify for SSDI or SSI, and the amount you earned during the 10 year look back will determine how much you receive each month if you are approved.
- The dollar figure to earn a credit changes almost every year. For 2017, you need $1,300 in gross earnings to earn a credit, or $5,200 for the year. For 2016, you need $1,260 in gross earnings to earn a credit, or $5,040 for the year. Click here to view a table from the official Social Security web site of earnings credit requirements for past years. ↩