You Need to Work 5 out of 10 Years to Qualify for Disability Benefits. What Does This Mean?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for people who have paid into Social Security, and can no longer hold a job to earn income because of their medical condition. So, if you quit your last job 20 years ago to be a stay-at-home parent, and have now become disabled, can you get disability benefits? The answer is no, even if you once paid into Social Security. To be considered for SSDI, you must have worked five out of the last 10 years.
What, exactly, does that mean? Some people may think that they have to work five years straight to get benefits. That’s not true.
Let’s clear up the confusion.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), you have to pass two different earnings tests; a “duration of work” test and a “recent work test,” to qualify for disability insurance. The “duration of work” test reviews your entire work history. If you paid into Social Security throughout your working life, you are likely “fully insured” for retirement benefits, which you can get at retirement age.
If you are disabled and can’t work, you must pass both the “duration of work” test and the “recent work test.” The “recent work test” determines if you have earned five-years-worth of wages (or 20 quarters) over the last 10 years before your disability totally removed you from the workforce.
You accrue quarters of coverage through wages that qualify for Social Security taxes. In simplest terms, one quarter is equal to three months. Four quarters equals one year. You must have accumulated 20 quarters (five years) out of 40 quarters (10 years) to pass the “recent work test.”
A quarter has an earnings value, which goes up every year.
The value of one quarter in 2009 was $1,090. If you earned $2,500 in a two-week period in 2009, you earned two quarters. However, you can only earn four quarters in one year. So, even if your wages exceeded $4,360 ($1,090 x 4) at any time within 2009, you will still have earned four quarters.
SSA reviews the last 10 years of your work history and counts up the quarters you have earned. If you earned 20 quarters over the ten-year period, you pass the “recent work test” and will be considered for benefits. Keep in mind that the value of a quarter goes up each year. In 2010, one quarter will be worth $1,120.
So, when SSA says that to qualify for disability benefits you must have worked five out of the last 10 years, they mean you must have earned 20 out of 40 quarters within a ten-year period. If all this math is still as clear as mud, one of our Freedom Disability SSDI experts can figure out if you could be eligible for benefits.