How Many Months Do You Have to Work to Get Disability in California?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

How long you have to work to get disability means taking a look at the required work credits in order to be eligible for disability benefits. Work credits are earned based on your employment and payment of Social Security taxes, also known as FICA (Federal Insurance COntributions Act) taxes. The number of work credits required to qualify for disability benefits depends on various factors, including your age and the nature of your disability.

SSDI Benefits

For SSDI benefits, the number of work credits needed primarily depends on your age at the time of disability onset. Generally, you earn one work credit for every quarter (Three-month period) in which you have earned a specified amount of income subject to Social Security taxes. As of 2024, the threshold for earning one work credit is $1,470 of income. However, you can earn a maximum of four credits per year.

The specific number of work credits required to qualify for SSDI benefits varies based on your age. For instance:

  • Individuals under the age of 24 typically need six credits earned in the three years leading up to their disability.
  • Those aged 24 to 31 generally need credits for half the time between age 21 and the onset of disability. Individuals aged 31 or older usually need at least 20 credits earned in the 10 years preceding their disability.

SSI Benefits

Unlike SSDI, however, which is based on work history and contributions, SSI is a need-based program designed to assist individuals with limited income and resources. Therefore, work credits are not a prerequisite for SSI eligibility. Instead, eligibility for SSI benefits is determined based on financial need, disability status, and other factors outlined by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

What Our California Disability Benefits Lawyers Can Do For You

Understanding how long you need to work to qualify for disability benefits in California is critical to the benefits application process. By familiarizing yourself with the principles of work credits and seeking guidance from knowledgeable legal professionals, you can take proactive steps toward securing critical financial support amidst health challenges and disabling conditions. Disability Advocates Group is a trusted disability benefits law firm committed to providing personalized guidance that is tailored to your unique circumstances. Our experienced team of attorneys are here to help you understand the intricacies of work credits, navigate the application process, and advocate for your rights throughout the journey to securing disability benefits. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.