Earning Social Security “Credits”

Many people are worried about what will happen if they are suddenly not well enough to work. While there are many questions out there concerning disability benefits, one of the most confusing areas is how to earn the actual benefits, which are measured in terms of Social Security “credits.”

While there is an intricate system for calculating these credits, in sum, your credits are based on total annual earnings. These credits then determine whether you qualify for Social Security benefits. For example, in 2015, $1,220 in earnings was the minimum to receive one credit, and the maximum number of credits that could be earned in a year was four. As average annual wage increases, the amount needed to earn one credit increases with it.

Overall, the number of credits that you need to qualify for Social Security benefits depends on your age and the type of benefit. According to the Social Security Administration:

There Are Special Rules for Some Jobs

Self-employed workers earn credits the same that regular employees do, except that special rules apply for self-employed workers who earn less than $400. In addition, if you are in the military, you earn credits the same way that regular employees do, but you can also earn additional credits under certain conditions.

Other types of which for which special rules apply include domestic work, farm work, or work for a church/church-oriented organization that does not pay Social Security taxes.

Retirement and Disability Benefits Depend Upon Age and Type of Benefit

For example, anyone born in 1929 or afterward needs a minimum of 10 years of work (or 40 credits) to be eligible for benefits. If you become disabled before the age of 24, you typically need one and a half years of work (or six credits) within the three years prior to becoming disabled. Ages 24 through 30 typically need to accrue credits for half the time between age 21 and the date you became disabled. For 31 or older, you need at least 20 credits in the 10 years before you became disabled.

Family Members May Be Eligible For Survivor Benefits

If a loved one who has accrued benefits passes away, certain family members may be eligible for benefits. These survivors include:

  • Widows (those who are or are not disabled and/or those who take care of the deceased’s child, if under the age of 16);
  • Divorced spouses (under certain conditions);
  • Unmarried children (younger than 18 or up to 19 if they are in school full-time. This can include step-, grand-, and/or adopted children, under some circumstances);
  • Children disabled before the age of 22 (who remain disabled); and
  • Dependent parents ages 62 or older.

Your Credits Outlast Job Changes or Losses

Fortunately, the Social Security credits you earn remain on your record even if you change jobs or have $0 earnings for a time.

However, time is still of the essence when it comes to Social Security Disability benefits. Hiring a skilled attorney in this area increases your ability to protect your rights and maximize the benefits in your case. Contact Solnick & Associates today for a free consultation on these issues.