What is the Social Security Disability 5-Year Rule?

The Social Security Disability 5-Year Rule is also known as the “Duration of Work” rule. It is an essential eligibility requirement for individuals seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in the United States. This rule determines whether an applicant has worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Here’s How the 5-Year Rule Works

To understand the 5-Year Rule, you must first be familiar with what work credits are and how the SSA calculates them. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of work credits:

Accumulating Work Credits: To be eligible for SSDI benefits, an individual must have earned a certain number of work credits. Work credits are earned by working and paying Social Security taxes throughout your career. The specific number of work credits required varies depending on your age when you become disabled.

Quarterly Credits: Work credits are typically awarded quarterly. 2024, for example, you earn one work credit for every $1,470 in earnings, subject to Social Security taxes. The maximum number of work credits you can make in a year is four.

Disability Requirement: The individual’s disability has to either be present prior to and last through the insurability window or at least start during this time frame.

5-Year Requirement

The 5-Year Rule comes into play when determining if you have enough recent work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Specifically, you must have earned at least 20 of your total work credits in the ten years leading up to the onset of your disability. Among those 20 work credits, they do not have to be earned consecutively. It is just 5 years of work in a 10-year window. This is where the “5-Year Rule” gets its name.

Example: Let’s say an individual becomes disabled in 2024 and stopped working in 2010. They had worked for 15 years before when they stopped working. This means they are insured from 2005 through 2015. However, since their disability started outside this window of insurability the individual will not be technically eligible for SSDI.

Other Considerations

Age-Related Variations: The number of work credits required for eligibility can vary based on your age when you become disabled. Younger individuals may need fewer credits because they have yet to have as many years as possible in the workforce. The Social Security Administration has specific guidelines for different age groups.

Medical Eligibility: In addition to the work credit requirements, you must also meet the medical eligibility criteria for disability. This means you must have a medically documented impairment that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.

Application Process: To apply for SSDI benefits, you must provide detailed information about your work history, medical condition, and other relevant documentation. The Social Security Administration will review your application to determine if you meet the work credit and medical eligibility requirements.

Need Help? Disability Support Services is Here for You.

It’s important to understand that the 5-Year Rule is just one aspect of SSDI eligibility, and the specific details can vary depending on individual circumstances. At Disability Support Services (DSS), we know this and many other concepts related to disability benefits can seem complicated. That is why we are here to help.

We are experts in disability law and the Social Security Administration’s process. If you believe you are eligible for disability benefits, start by filling out our Free Evaluation Form online. It’s simple, and there is no obligation to work with us by completing the form. Have you applied already and been denied? Don’t give up hope. Contact us today and see if you are eligible for appeal.