Your work history is a major factor in determining if you are eligible for Social Security Disability insurance benefits.
SSA requires that you pass two different earnings tests to qualify for benefits – a “duration of work” test and a “recent work test.”
The Duration of Work Test
The “duration of work” test reviews your work history. If you paid into Social Security throughout your working life, you are insured for Social Security retirement benefits and will be eligible to start receiving benefits at retirement age. This is one part of the eligibility requirement. You had to have paid into the Social Security system.
The Recent Work Test
Even if you have paid into Social Security (FICA taxes) you won’t qualify for disability benefits unless you have worked approximately five out of 10 years from when you became disabled. You may think this means that you must have worked five years straight to qualify. This is not the case.
The “recent work test” determines if you have earned five-years-worth of wages over the last 10 years before your disability totally removed you from the workforce.
What does this mean?
- SSA divides up years into quarters.
- One quarter equals three months.
- Four quarters equals one year.
- Each quarter has a value.
- You can only earn four quarters in one year.
When SSA says that you must have worked five out of 10 years, they mean you must have accumulated 20 quarters (five years) out of 40 quarters (10 years) to pass the “recent work test.”
You accrue quarters of coverage through wages that qualify for Social Security taxes. SSA also puts a value to one quarter. This value goes up every year.
Here’s an example:
In 2014 the value of one quarter was $1,200. If you earned $2,500 in a two-week period in 2014, you earned two quarters.
However, you can only earn four quarters in one year. So, even if your wages exceeded $4,800 ($1,200 x 4) at any time within 2014, 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 from when you became disabled, you pass the “recent work test” and will be considered for disability benefits.
Other factors determine if you qualify for SSDI benefits. Find out more about SSDI eligibility.