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Kobal Law

How Does Work History Affect Your Eligibility for SSDI Benefits?


If you are considering applying for Social Security disability benefits, it is advised to consider how your work history may affect your eligibility. What many do not realize is that their work history can affect their eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

You may be eligible to receive SSDI benefits if you:

  1. have a qualifying disability that prevents you from working; and
  2. have accumulated a specific number of work credits.

However, besides working, there are other factors that may affect your eligibility for SSDI benefits. Those factors include the number of years you have worked, how much income you have made, as well as your work history and career.

How Work History May Affect Your Eligibility for SSDI Benefits

An individual’s work history is part of the Social Security Administration’s formula for calculating work credits and determining the appropriate amount of SSDI benefits. The SSA’s calculation of work credits is based on:

  • A worker’s medical records proving their disability; and
  • The number of years they have worked.

While workers do not need to show their work history to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, an individual’s work history plays a major role in determining their eligibility for SSDI benefits. Also, a worker is required to prove that they have paid Social Security taxes from their income in order to qualify for SSDI benefits.

When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, a worker is required to fill out a work history report. The report is intended to prove that you have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. The total number of work credits a worker can earn per year is based on their income, but you cannot receive more than four work credits in a single year.

In 2020, earning $1,410 is equivalent to one work credit. Generally, an applicant over the age of 31 needs a total of 20 work credits within the past 15 years to be eligible for SSDI benefits. There are exceptions to the general rule for applicants under the age of 31.

Self-Employment or Overseas Employment and Your Eligibility for SSDI Benefits

Certain careers affect an applicant’s eligibility for SSDI benefits. If you are self-employed or work overseas, there may be special eligibility requirements to receive Social Security disability benefits.


If you are applying for SSDI benefits as a self-employed individual, you must be able to demonstrate a record of your SSDI contributions. This requires you to show proof that you have consistently paid the appropriate SSDI taxes.

Overseas Employment

The SSA signed the Totalization Agreement and other bilateral agreements with other countries to protect American workers from dual taxation and ensure that their work credits earned overseas are taken into account when determining a worker’s eligibility for SSDI benefits.

However, it is advised to consult with an experienced Tampa Social Security disability attorney in Florida to determine whether your overseas employment will be counted toward your work history when pursuing SSDI benefits in the United States.

Schedule a consultation with our knowledgeable lawyer at Kobal Law to discuss your particular case. Call at 813-873-2440 to get a case review.


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