What are Social Security Credits?

What are Social Security Credits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In determining eligibility for benefits, the SSA looks to the number of “credits” the individual has earned over the course of their work history. The following explains how credits are earned and how many are needed to be eligible for disability benefits.

Earning Credits

The SSA uses credits to determine whether an individual has the minimum amount of work history to qualify for benefits. If an individual does not have enough credits, the SSA will not pay any benefit amount. A person earns credit by working and paying Social Security taxes. Each year, an individual can earn a maximum of four credits.

For 2015, in order to earn one credit, an individual must earn $1,220 in covered earnings and $4,880 to earn all four of the maximum credits. The majority of people earn more credits over the course of their life than are needed to be eligible for benefits. However, extra credits that are earned do not increase the benefit payment amount. The determination of the monthly benefit payment amount is calculated by using the person’s average earnings over his or her working years.

How Many Credits do I Need?

The required number of credits to be eligible for benefits depends on the age of the person when they became disabled. In most cases, 40 credits are required, with 20 of them having been earned within the last 10 years ending with the year in which the person became disabled. For younger workers (people who become disabled at an earlier age) qualification may occur with fewer credits. The following chart summarizes the credits requirement:

  • Disabled before age 24: may qualify with 6 credits earned in the three-year period ending when the disability starts
  • Disabled between ages 24 to 31: may qualify if credit is earned for working half the time between the age of 21 and the time of disability
  • Disabled at age 31 or older: see this SSA chart

If an individual dies while he or she is receiving disability benefits, the SSA will pay that individual’s survivors based on the benefit amount the deceased individual was receiving at the time of death. This means that the number of credits earned does not need to be determined again.

The following are some other pieces of information about Social Security credits:

  1. Each year the amount of earnings required for an individual to earn credits slightly increases to reflect the increase in average earnings levels
  2. Once credits are earned, they remain on the individual’s record, even if the person becomes unemployed or changes jobs
  3. Self-employed individuals and members of the military earn credits in the same way as employees do, though some special rules may apply in certain circumstances

South Carolina Law Attorneys

For more information about the process of obtaining disability benefits, speak with an experienced Social Security disability attorney today. At the Klok Law Firm LLC, our firm provides assistance to disabled individuals in gaining these often much-needed benefits.

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