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Can younger workers qualify for SSDI benefits?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Social Security Disability |

Many people think of older adults when they think of Social Security benefits. After all, the vast majority of people who rely on payments from Social Security are retired adults receiving retirement benefits to supplement their pensions and personal savings.

However, there are other Social Security benefit programs that assist those with disabling medical conditions and other challenges that could affect their ability to work. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can help people pay their regular household expenses when they cannot work.

Typically, the ability to obtain SSDI benefits requires proof of both a debilitating medical condition and an extensive work history. People of all ages can suffer injuries and develop illnesses that prevent them from working. Do younger professionals ever qualify for SSDI benefits, or do people need to be older to qualify?

Credits determine benefit eligibility

Technically, a 16-year-old working their first job can already begin accruing credits toward Social Security benefits later. They contribute toward Social Security with payroll contributions. They receive credits in return for making those contributions.

Workers can accrue up to four benefits each year. The Social Security Administration (SSA) awards people one credit for every $1,730 earned. Most applicants seeking SSDI benefits need to have at least 40 accrued credits. Typically, the SSA expects people to have 20 credits from within the last 10 years. Both a long overall work history and a recent work history are necessary to qualify.

If the person seeking benefits is under the age of 31, they may qualify with fewer workplace credits. Workers between the ages of 24 and 31 need credits showing that they worked for at least half of the time between their 21st birthday and when their medical issue affected their ability to work. Workers under the age of 24 typically only need six total credits earned in the three years leading up to their medical challenges.

Younger workers who truly cannot return to work because of a disabling medical condition can theoretically secure SSDI benefits with fewer credits than older applicants. Learning about the rules that govern SSDI can help those worried about their ability to live independently while dealing with a serious medical issue.