If you are unable to work due to a disability, then you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Depending on your situation, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Generally, to be approved for SSDI, you will need to demonstrate that you meet the minimum criteria for work credits.
Getting disability without a work history can be challenging – or in some cases, impossible. While the requirements for a work history are lower the younger you are, if you don’t have any work credits (per SSA rules), then your application may be denied. However, in this situation, you may still qualify for SSI, which does not require any work history.
Based in Cherry Hill, NJ, the legal team at Bross & Frankel represents individuals throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We offer free case evaluations for all prospective clients to help you understand your rights. Reach out today to talk to an SSDI attorney about your disability claim.
Do I Need to Have a Work History to Get SSDI?
To qualify for SSDI, you need to meet two basic requirements:
- You must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security; and
- You must have a medical or mental health condition that meets or exceeds the Social Security definition for disability.
A work history is required because SSDI is an insurance program. When you work, you are required to pay Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. FICA taxes are deducted from each paycheck, and ultimately help to fund Social Security and Medicare programs.
Because SSDI is an insurance program, you must have paid into the system in order to make a claim for disability benefits. SSA evaluates eligibility for disability benefits based on the number of work credits that you have earned over the course of your working life.
Generally, you must earn at least 40 Social Security credits to qualify for disability or retirement benefits. You can earn up to 4 credits per year based on your total wages and/or self-employment income for the year. The amount of earnings that it takes to earn a credit changes annually; in 2023, you can earn 1 credit for every $1,640 in covered earnings.
However, for disability benefits, the number of credits necessary depends on your age. The younger you are, the fewer credits you need. This system recognizes that a younger disabled person may not have had the opportunity to build up 40 credits.
To meet the criteria as a younger person, you will need:
- Under age 24: at least 6 credits earned in the 3-year period before your disability began;
- Age 24 to 31: generally, you will need to have worked half the time between age 21 and when your disability began. For example, if you develop a disability at age 27, then you would need 3 years of work (or 12 credits) out of the prior 6 years;
- Age 31 or older: you typically need at least 20 credits in the 10-year period before your disability began.
There are other factors that affect the number of work credits that you may need. For example, if you are statutorily blind, then the work credit requirement does not apply. A seasoned disability benefits lawyer can help you understand how your employment history will impact your ability to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Qualifying for disability benefits can be trickier if you do not have a strong work history – but not impossible. Keep in mind that work credits are based on covered earnings and the amount that you pay into the system, rather than the amount of time that you have worked. In other words, if you earn more than $6,560 in the first few months of 2023, you will receive 4 work credits for Social Security Disability purposes – even if you did not work the full year.
You can check the number of work credits that you have by logging into your My Social Security account. This will give you a better idea of how many credits you have. Even if you don’t have a significant employment history, you should not assume that you do not qualify for benefits. A skilled SSDI attorney can help you determine whether you may still be eligible for benefits based on other factors.
What Are My Options for Disability without a Work History?
In some situations, a disabled person will not qualify for SSDI benefits because of their limited work history. Fortunately, there is still an option for obtaining Social Security disability benefits. If you are disabled due to a medical condition and also have limited financial resources, you may qualify for SSI benefits.
Unlike SSDI, you do not have to earn work credits to be eligible for SSI, which is a need-based program. To be eligible for SSI, you must meet the definition of disability for SSA purposes, or be blind or aged 65 or older. You must also have limited income and assets.
The application process for SSI can be daunting. In addition to meeting the medical requirements, individuals with disabilities must prove that they have both limited income and other financial resources. If you meet the criteria, you may receive SSI benefits.
In some cases, an individual can qualify for both Social Security Disability Insurance benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income. However, if you don’t have a work history, then you may be limited to SSDI benefits. Conversely, if you have too much income or other financial benefits, you may not be eligible for SSI benefits.
Applying for either type of disability benefit can be daunting. The process requires you to prove that you are disabled, based on your medical records and related evidence, and that you meet the earnings record and/or income limits criteria. If you are concerned about whether you have a qualifying disability or meet the other requirements, reach out to a New Jersey disability benefits lawyer to schedule a free claim review.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
If you are unable to work due to a medical condition and/or mental impairment, you may be eligible for a monthly benefit through the SSA. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits. A disability benefits attorney can help you determine what your options are for pursuing a disability claim.
Bross & Frankel is dedicated to helping individuals get the benefits that they are entitled to for their disability. We represent people with disabilities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania with the disability process, from the initial application through any appeals. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with an experienced SSDI benefits lawyer, give us a call at 856-210-3345 or fill out our online contact form.
Can I Get Disability Benefits If I Never Worked?
If you have never worked, you may still qualify for disability benefits through the SSA. However, you will likely be limited to SSI benefits because SSDI requires proof that you have paid into the system through FICA taxes. If you have never worked, then you will not have an earnings record for SSDI purposes.
However, if you meet the medical criteria and have limited income and other financial resources, you may still be eligible for SSI disability benefits. An experienced New Jersey disability attorney can help you with the application process. Call Bross & Frankel to schedule a free initial consultation.
I’m Self Employed. Will My Income Count Towards My Social Security Earnings History?
If you pay Social Security Taxes, then any income that you earn – whether from an employer or self-employment income – will be counted towards your work history for Social Security purposes. Self-employed people do not have FICA taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks. Instead, they have to pay FICA taxes on their own each year.
As long as you have paid into the system, accurately reported your income, and worked for long enough to qualify for benefits, a self-employed person can receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Contact Bross & Frankel today to talk to a disability benefits attorney about your claim.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.