Do you need work experience to qualify for disability benefits?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2024 | Social Security Disability, SSDI

If you’re unable to work due to a disability, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) could provide you with financial assistance until you reach retirement age. To tap into this benefit, you need work credits, which are measures of your contribution to the Social Security system. Those who are younger need fewer tokens to be eligible. But, if you’ve never worked or have a limited work history, you may not qualify.

Can you apply for disability benefits without work experience?

To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must have worked a job that contributes to Social Security and have a health condition that the Social Security Administration (SSA) agrees is a disability. An employment history is necessary because SSDI operates as an insurance program funded by tax contributions deducted from employee paychecks.

Additionally, you must have enough work credits to receive SSDI benefits. You accumulate work credits as you earn your income. In 2024, you get one credit for every $1,730 you make. You can receive up to 4 credits in a year.

The age when your disability began matters. In most cases, you would need at least 40 credits, and 20 of those should be from the last ten years before your disability began.

On the other hand, if you developed a disability before you were 28 years old, you may need fewer credits to apply. Depending on your situation, you could be eligible with just one and a half years of work and somewhere between six to 12 credits.

As you can see, you would not have been able to contribute without employment. If you have some experience, you may still try to apply. Work credits are not the only criteria. The SSA will also consider other factors, such as the severity of your disability.

What are your options if you have no work experience?

If you’ve never held a job and do not earn enough to get by, you could be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Unlike the SSDI, you do not need work credits to receive these benefits. Instead, it aims to support both adults and children with disabilities who have little to no income or resources.

It can take three to six months to receive a decision on your application. Therefore, it’s crucial not to make mistakes in your application that may further delay you from getting paid.

SSDI benefits can be a financial lifeline that helps you get by daily. If you find the SSA process challenging, consider tapping into legal avenues for assistance.