As you probably already know, the Social Security Disability Insurance program is only for Americans who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits by working and contributing payroll taxes. But the number of work credits that are required depends on several factors, including your age and when you became disabled.
The Social Security Administration actually requires you to meet two different earnings tests in order to qualify for SSDI. Ultimately, there is a “recent work” test that is based on the age you were when you became disabled as well as a “duration of work test” that measures whether you have worked long enough to qualify for SSDI.
Generally speaking, for the “recent work” test you need to have worked at least 1.5 years during the three-year period ending when your disability began if you became disabled before or in the same quarter of the year that you turned 24 years old.
If you became disabled in the quarter after your turned 24 but before reaching the quarter that you turn 31, then you generally need to have worked half the time from the quarter after you turned 21 to the quarter you became disabled.
If you became disabled in the quarter that you turned 31 or after, then you generally need to have worked for five years total out of the 10-year period that ended in the quarter which you became disabled.
For the “duration of work test,” it is best to look at the table that is found on Page 6 of this publication from the SSA. However, if you became disabled before the age of 28, then you generally need to have worked 1.5 years. The older you got before becoming disabled, the more you are required to have worked.
Note: There are certain blind disabled workers who only have to qualify for the “duration of work” test. Additionally, it would be wise to consider applying for another program, Supplemental Security Income, if you do not qualify for SSDI because of your work history but you are a disabled, low-income individual.