In order to receive SSDI benefits, you must meet two basic earnings requirements, known in this case as work tests. The two types of work tests are the “recent work” test and the “duration of work” test. The “recent work test” requires that you have worked for a certain number of years before you became disabled.

If you are under age 24 you must have worked for at least 1.5 years since turning age 21 in order to pass this test. If you are between the age of 24 and 31 then you must have worked for at least half of the time between age 21 and your current age.

How Much Do You Have to Work to Qualify for Disability Benefits?

For example, if you are 29-years-old then it has been 8 years since you turned 21, so you had to have worked 4 years before you became disabled to qualify for SSDI. 

If you are aged 24 to 31, a simple way to calculate the number of years required to pass the recent work test is to subtract 21 from your current age, and then divide that sum in half. If you are over age 31 then you must have worked 5 out of the 10 years immediately prior to becoming disabled.

Duration of Work Test

This test determines whether you have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. These credits correspond to how many quarters of a year that you worked and paid into Social Security before you became disabled. 

You must have worked a minimum of 6 quarters — or 1.5 years — to meet the minimum duration of work test requirements.

To calculate how many years you must have worked to pass the duration of work test, you can subtract 21 from your current age. This will give you the number of quarters or work credits you need. Then, divide this number by 4 to find the number of years that must have worked to qualify for SSDI.

For instance if you are age 50 then the formula to estimate your duration of work requirement would be: 

50 – 22 = 28 quarters or work credits

28 / 4 = 7 years  

So if you were aged 50 when you became disabled, you must have worked and paid into Social Security for at least 28 quarters or 7 years to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Now that you know the requirements of SSDI, it is time to prepare your benefits application.