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Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides financial assistance to workers who become disabled as well as their families. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that 7.4 million Americans received Social Security disability benefits in 2023.

Supplemental Security Income differs from SSDI. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) supports people with disabilities or of advanced age who have limited means (regardless of their work history). However, SSDI is an earned benefit. To be eligible for benefits, the worker must have contributed to the Social Security program through taxes prior to becoming disability.

When you apply or reapply for SSDI benefits, there are two five-year rules to remember that involves the work credit requirement as well as reapplying for benefits.


The eligibility criteria for SSDI involve disability, income, and work history.

  1. Your disability must meet the Social Security Administration’s strict standards
  2. Your income must be below the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount. For 2024, the SGA is $1,550 per month for people with disabilities other than blindness (for blind people, it is $2,590 per month)
  3. You must also have earned sufficient work credits before you became disabled relative to your age, and you must have worked recently


Determining eligibility for SSDI hinges on whether you have accumulated enough work credits, especially for individuals aged 31 and above. These work credits are earned annually based on your income, with up to four credits attainable per year. In 2024, one Social Security and Medicare credit are earned for every $1,730 in covered earnings.

Under the five-year rule, individuals aged 31 and older must have worked for at least five out of the last ten years to qualify for SSDI. Even part-time or seasonal work can yield the maximum four credits per year. High earners may be able to earn the maximum four credits after only a month of work. To meet the criteria, individuals must have accrued a minimum of 20 credits over the past ten years.

If you are 30 or under, you’ll need to use a different test to determine whether you have enough work credits to receive Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration determines your eligibility for benefits based on your age.

  • For those under 31, alternative rules apply. Individuals under 24 need six credits earned within the three years preceding their disability onset.
  • Those aged 24 to 31 qualify if they’ve worked half the time between the age of 21 and their disability onset. For instance, a person becoming disabled at age 27 must have worked for at least three years, earning 12 credits, in the prior six years.
  • Individuals 31 and older must have accumulated 20 credits within the last decade, adhering to the five-year rule.


In addition to the work credit eligibility rule for individuals aged 31 and above, there’s another five-year provision for former SSDI recipients seeking to reapply.

According to federal regulations, there’s typically a five-month waiting period for disability benefits eligibility. However, an exception exists: there is no waiting period if you were previously entitled to disability benefits or experienced a period of disability within five years of becoming disabled again.

Due to this five-year rule, you do not have to wait five months to receive benefits. However, the exception does not apply if a drug or alcohol addiction contributed to your disability.


If you seek disability benefits, an attorney’s assistance can prove valuable. An attorney that has expertise in special needs can explain the rules to you, help you determine whether you could qualify for benefits, and assist you with your application.

Bromlow Law, PLLC and Laura L. Bromlow, are dedicated to the practice of Elder Law and Estate Planning. Our practice focuses solely on working with clients in these and closely related legal fields. Laura L. Bromlow is a Certified Elder Law Attorney with the National Elder Law Foundation. Bromlow Law, PLLC strives to enhance communication among family members and loved ones and to keep them all out of conflict so they can stay out of court. We want to help you keep your close circle safe!

Please contact our office today at (281) 665-3807 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal matters. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

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