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What is SSDI? At its heart, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is just that – an insurance policy that you can collect on if you ever suffer from a disability and are unable to work to make money. Other private disability policies exist and can be purchased or received as an employee benefit, but paying for SSDI is automatic and mandatory if you work for an employer covered under Social Security. Simply by getting a paycheck and paying Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, you are paying for SSDI over your entire working life and earning “credits.”

This is important for Chicagoans to know for a number of reasons. First, SSDI is funded through payroll taxes. If you suffer from a disability, you should definitely file a claim and try to collect benefits – just as you would on a regular insurance policy. Second, SSDI eligibility works differently than SSI disability benefits. Unlike SSI, SSDI does not require you to show proof of certain income and resource limitations. People who get SSDI actually receive more money if they were making more in their job before becoming disabled. Third, you have to meet the minimum requirement for “work credits” in order to qualify.

And finally, it’s vital to be aware of the fact that you cannot receive SSDI benefits after the date that you’ve reached your full retirement age. The program is designed to help those who are under their full retirement age and who just cannot work anymore.

What Is SSDI’s “Work Credits” System?

When you work and pay taxes on the money you earn, some of those taxes go towards Social Security and earn you work “credits” (also sometimes called “Quarters of Coverage” or just “Quarters”). The way the system is designed, someone can earn up to four “credits” each year.

Most disability claimants, based upon age, need to have 40 “work credits,” which translates to 10 years of work to get disability benefits (individuals under the age of 31 need fewer credits, however). Of those 40 credits, at least 20 need to have come in the 10 years right before the claimant stopped working.

Let an experienced disability lawyer help you find out if you are eligible for SSDI benefits.  Get answers to more of your questions and keep up with the latest information by looking at our free resources page and signing up for our newsletter.