Social Security Disability is an insurance program. You earn the right to these benefits through paying into the system when you work.
As you work, you will earn work credits. The Social Security Administration requires you to have a specific number of work credits to qualify for SSD benefits.
Work credit defined
A work credit is assigned based on how much you earn. The amount changes annually. In 2022, one work credit was equal to $1,510 earned. You can only earn four per year. Once you earn them, you have them.
How they work
How many work credits you need depends on your age at the time of your disability. For most people, the requirement is 40 work credits. You also need to have earned a specific number during the last 10 years. The average is 20 within the past 10 years. Keep in mind that if you are very young at the time of your disability, the requirements will be different because you have not had enough time to earn a lot of work credits.
In addition, to get SSD, you must be unable to work, which means that you will stop earning credits once you start getting benefits. You will eventually get to the point where you no longer qualify for benefits due to not having recently earned work credits.
The importance of work credits is that they help maintain SSD as an earned benefit. People who have not earned the benefit cannot get it. Requiring these credits helps to ensure benefits stay available for workers who need them.