What is the earnings requirement to qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

In general, to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must meet two earnings tests:

  1. A “recent work” test based on your age at the time of disability; and
  2. A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.

Certain blind workers only have to meet the “duration of work” test to qualify for Social Security disability.

The following information from Social Security shows the rules for how much work you need for the “recent work” test based on your age when your disability began.  The calendar quarters are: 1st Quarter: January 1 through March 31; 2nd Quarter: April 1 through June 30; 3rd Quarter: July 1 through September 30; and 4th quarter: October 1 through December 31.

  • If you become disabled in or before the quarter you turn age 24, then you generally need 1.5 years of work during the three-year period ending with the quarter your disability began.
  • If you become disabled in the quarter after you turn age 24 but before the quarter you turn age 31, then you generally need to have worked during half the time during the period beginning with the quarter after you turned 21 and ending with the quarter you became disabled.
  • If you become disabled in the quarter you turn age 31 or later, you will generally need to have worked during five years out of the 10 years ending with the quarter your disability began.

Below, are examples from Social Security of how much work you would need to meet the “duration of work” test based on when you become disabled.  Your work does not have to be within a certain period of time to meet the “duration of work” test.

If you become disabled…                     Then you generally need:

  • Before age 28                                      1.5 years of work
  • Age 30                                                  2 years
  • Age 34                                                  3 years
  • Age 38                                                  4 years
  • Age 42                                                  5 years
  • Age 44                                                  5.5 years
  • Age 46                                                  6 years
  • Age 48                                                  6.5 years
  • Age 50                                                  7 years
  • Age 52                                                  7.5 years
  • Age 54                                                  8 years
  • Age 56                                                  8.5 years
  • Age 58                                                  9 years
  • Age 60                                                  9.5 years

If you have questions about whether you meet the earnings requirement to qualify for Social Security disability contact Cary, NC, North Carolina Social Security Disability lawyer Kevin Bunn for your free consultation.

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