Nancy Withers, Michelle Parsons, and Maureen Nowak
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Earnings Requirement

What are “earning requirements?”

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the claimant must have received credits for working a specific amount of time and earning a specific dollar amount during the ten year period immediately preceding the onset of disability. The Social Security Administration keeps a record of all amounts reported by employers on each workers’ Social Security number or account over the course of each worker’s work life. From this record, the Administration calculates whether a claimant has earned sufficient credits to qualify for SSDI. A credit is equivalent to a calendar quarter.

In order to earn a credit for having worked a calendar quarter a disability claimant must have earned a minimum dollar amount during that calendar quarter. Even if that minimum dollar amount was earned during a brief, two week period in that calendar quarter, following which the disability claimant did no work at all during the remaining portion of the calendar quarter, credit for the entire quarter is earned. Generally, in order to be eligible for SSDI, a claimant must have received credits for at least 20 calendar quarters (five years worth of calendar quarters) out of the last 40 calendar quarters (ten years worth of calendar quarters) ending with the year the claimant became disabled. The requirement of having earned credits for 20 out of the last 40 calendar quarters roughly equates to having worked five years worth of quarters out of the last ten years worth of quarters; however, it should be emphasized that the quarters need not have been worked together or in sequence. Thus, if a claimant was out of work every other quarter over a ten year period of time ending with his disability, he would have just barely earned sufficient credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Since there are only four calendar quarters in a year, a disability claimant cannot earn more than four credits for a year of work.