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An explanation of the two earnings tests for disability benefits

Readers of this disability benefits blog should be aware of a key distinction between the eligibility requirements for Social Security disability insurance benefits and Supplement Security Income. Whereas SSDI has a work history requirement, SSI benefits do not. Instead, they are contingent upon low-income eligibility, in addition to the usual requirement of proving the functional incapacitation of one’s disability.

Yet a recent article suggests that there may be confusion common to many readers over what exactly is meant by a qualifying work history.  According to the Social Security Administration’s website, a qualifying work history means that an applicant has passed two different earnings tests. 

The first test is a recent-work test which requires that an individual 31 years of age and older worked five out of the 10 years preceding his or her disability. Of course, a worker in his or her early twenties may not have spent 10 years in the workforce before a disabling accident or illness rendered work impossible. Accordingly, the Social Security Administration offers two different tests for those in the age bracket of 24 years old and younger, as well as those between 24 and 31 years of age. In the former group, an individual must have worked 1.5 years during the three-year period before the disability began. In the latter group, an individual must have worked during half the time period calculated between the date the individual turned 21 and ending with the date of disability.

The second earnings test imposes minimum amounts for how long a person worked, regardless of when that work was performed. The requirements vary depending on a person’s age. For example, a 60-year-old SSDI applicant needs a cumulative work history of 9.5 years, whereas a 30-year-old applicant needs only 2 years.

Source: Huffington Post, “Who Qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits?” Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, June 24, 2014

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