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Social Security disability benefits vary with age, work history

Q: Concerning the Social Security disability work requirement, how does a person know if they have enough work or not?

A: For Social Security disability, you must have worked long enough and recently enough. You are insured if you meet this requirement.

Before the question of medical disability is considered, Social Security representatives first establish if a person has the required amount of work at the right time for their age. If work requirements are not met, a medical decision is not made.

Requirements vary based on age. Whatever your age, you must have earned the required number of work credits, also called quarters of coverage, within a certain period ending with the time you become disabled.

If you qualify now but stop working under Social Security, you may not continue to meet the disability work requirement in the future.

For example, use a person in their late twenties, working and currently insured for SSA disability. If this person leaves the paid workforce, at some point he or she will no longer meet work requirements. Exactly when this will occur depends on their age and work history.

The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.

Adults need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

Information about how much work is needed is at Other requirement s exist. Do not let doubt about having enough work prevent you from filing for disability if medical need arises.

A SSA representative will review your actual work record and determine if you have enough work at the right time (meet insured status). If you do, a medical decision will be made.

If you do not, the application will end but you could appeal if you disagree.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a very different program also administered by Social Security.

Based on income and financial resources, SSI has similar medical requirements but does not have a work requirement. Very often, individuals file applications for both programs.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at Read his online articles at