Payroll taxes fund Social Security Disability benefits. Because of the funding source, SSDI is not a guaranteed benefit. It is an earned benefit.

To apply and qualify for SSDI, the Social Security Administration explains that you must have enough work history, which it calculates through work credits.

Work credits

A work credit is dependent on your earnings. You earn a work credit per every $1,410 you earn in the year 2020. The amount you must earn to get a credit changes each year. You can earn a total of four credits per year regardless of the total amount of your income.

Number needed

Figuring the number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI benefits is not as straightforward as the process for earning the credits. How many you need depends on how old you are when you apply for benefits. In addition, you have to earn the required number of credits within a set period before you apply.

Unless you are young, you will likely need to have 40 credits on your record. You also need 20 of those credits earned in the last ten years. Younger workers need fewer credits since they have not been working as long.

Effect on benefits

If you do not meet the work credit requirement, then you cannot get SSDI benefits. There is no exception even if you meet the definition of disabled. In addition, once you begin your benefits, you could end up not meeting the work credit requirement in the future because you will be unable to work while on SSDI.