Categories: Business & Finance

Can You Qualify For Social Security Disability Even If You Haven’t Worked In A While?

November 4, 2021

Social Security Disability is a program that provides cash benefits to people who cannot work due to a disability. However, to qualify for this benefit, you must have worked in the somewhat recent past and have earned enough credits. This article will explore whether or not you can be eligible for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) even if you haven’t worked in a while.

Work History

When you apply for SSDI, the SSA (Social Security Adminitstration) will first look at your work history. They will determine whether or not you qualify by looking at how many work credits you’ve earned. The amount you need will depend on your age. In general, expect to need to have worked about half of the time in the last 10 years or since you turned 21. They’ll also look at how much you earned while you were working during that time. 

Spouse’s Work History

In general, you can’t apply your spouse’s work credits to apply for your own SSDI. However, you may be able to apply for spousal benefits if they are currently receiving social security benefits or if they were receiving benefits before they died.

Ability to Work

If you have the necessary work history, you must prove that your disability makes you unable to work. There is a multi-step process the SSA will use to evaluate your case.

First, they’ll check to see if you’re currently working or bringing in income. If you are, you won’t automatically be disqualified. However, if you’re bringing in more than $1,310 per month, you usually won’t be granted benefits. If you make less than that at a part-time job or similar position, you may still qualify for your benefits. Blindness may qualify you for a higher earnings limit. 

However, if you can work a job and hold down all of your own household bills and responsibilities, then the SSA will assume that you could work a full-time job and won’t qualify you for benefits. 


Your condition also must be considered severe. If your condition hasn’t lasted more than one year, you likely won’t qualify for SSDI. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Certain diagnoses allow you to receive your benefits much more quickly.

The SSA will look at how your disability affects your ability to work. First, they’ll look at whether it will prevent you from doing your previous job. For example, if you did manual labor that required a lot of bending and lifting, but you’re now in a wheelchair, you may qualify. 

They’ll also look at whether your disability would prevent  you from doing other types of work. This means that if your condition is only disabling when you’re at your full-time job, then it wouldn’t be disabling enough for Social Security Disability benefits. It also means that if you could do another type of work that exists in the national economy, then the SSA won’t award you benefits.

In conclusion, if you haven’t worked for the past five years, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to file for Social Security Disability benefits. You may still qualify by proving that your condition prevents you from working at any job. If it does, then the SSA will assume that your situation is disabling enough to prevent you from working at a full-time job.

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