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I read the following in my social security statement.

"Disability — If you become disabled before full retirement age, you can receive disability benefits after six months if you have: — enough credits from earnings (depending on your age, you must have earned six to 20 of your credits in the three to 10 years before you became disabled); and ...

Does this mean that if has been more than, say 10 years, since I last earned social security credits, I will not qualify for disability regardless of how many credits I have? What does the "depending on your age" clause mean in this regard? How does this requirement of "having earned 6 to 20 of your credits in the 3 to 10 years before you became disabled" depend on age?

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It didn't take me long to find this page by searching.

According to SSA, you have to pass a recent work test and a duration/length of work test. These are based on how many "credits" you have earned per year. In 2020, you earn 1 credit per every "$1410 of covered earnings" and you max out at 4 credits a year once you earn $5640. The dollar amount per credit changes every year.

For recent work:

  • Before age 24 - You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts.
  • Age 24 to 31 – In general, you may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. As a general example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).
  • Age 31 or older - In general, you must have at least 20 credits in the 10-year period immediately before you become disabled.

For duration of work:

If you become disabled...    Then you generally need...
Before age 28                  1.5 years of work
Age 30                         2 years
Age 34                         3 years
Age 38                         4 years
Age 42                         5 years
Age 44                         5.5 years
Age 46                         6 years
Age 48                         6.5 years
Age 50                         7 years
Age 52                         7.5 years
Age 54                         8 years
Age 56                         8.5 years
Age 58                         9 years
Age 60                         9.5 years
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  • The recent work requirement makes the qualification for disability expire in a certain number of years after one has stopped working in the USA regardless of how many credits one has. That's surprising. Sep 20, 2020 at 16:46
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    @user2371765 the logic is that if you haven't worked in many years, you don't need to start receiving disability payments to replace the income. Sep 20, 2020 at 17:40
  • @mhoran_psprep What if one has moved to another country which does not have disability, works then for enough time for the US disability qualification to expire, and then becomes disabled? Also, if one has accumulated enough credits for only disability but not for social security, they don't get anything after the expiry of the disability qualification regardless of the number of credits they have. Sep 20, 2020 at 19:51
  • @user2371765 sounds like something you should consider when deciding to live and work in another country for an extended period of time.
    – Kat
    Sep 20, 2020 at 23:42
  • @Kat How can one know everything beforehand? I just did not expect this. Generally, when you pay thousands of dollars into the system, you get/expect something in return. It's only natural. How can it be all-or-nothing? That the system is strained is another issue. But it is not fair that the law does not provision for the kind of situation in which I find myself. Sep 21, 2020 at 0:21

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