The United States Social Security Administration administers a number of programs that are intended to provide financial assistance to persons who are at least 65, who are disabled or who require additional financial assistance. Eligibility for these programs depends upon different criteria, but one criteria that applies to each program is having earned a sufficient number of work credits before applying for the benefit.

Work credits are awarded based upon the applicant’s work history and earnings prior to the year in which the application is made. The number of work credits shows how long a person has been paying into the Social Security System. The amount of a credit is set by the SSA every year, and the amount of a single credit usually increases on a year-by-year basis. In 2019, the value of a single work credit is $1,360. A person can earn a maximum of four work credits in a single year.

The number of work credits required to establish eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits is set forth in a table published by the SSA. Generally, the number of work credits that is needed to establish eligibility is determined by the number of years the applicant has worked before the onset of the disability. For example, a person who becomes disabled between the ages of 31 and 42 needs 20 credits earned over a period no shorter than five years. At age 44, the person needs 22 credits over 5-1/2 years. The number of required credits increases by two for every two years the person works. The maximum number of credits needed is 40 by age 62. For most people who have a normal work life, meeting these criteria is not difficult, but people who become afflicted with a significant disability before age 50 may have difficulty meeting the eligibility thresholds.

Anyone who has a question about their Social Security work credits may wish to consult a knowledgeable attorney about obtaining this information from the Social Security Administration.