Social Security pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Federal law requires this very strict definition of disability. While some programs give money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not.
Certain family members of disabled workers also can receive money from Social Security. This is explained in "Can my family get benefits?"
How do I meet the earnings requirement for disability benefits?
In general, to get disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:
1. A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
2. A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.
Certain blind workers have to meet only the “duration of work” test.
The table below, shows the rules for how much work you need for the “recent work” test based on your age when your disability began. The rules in this table are based on the calendar quarter in which you turned or will turn a certain age.
The calendar quarters are:
First Quarter: January 1 through March 31
Second Quarter: April 1 through June 30
Third Quarter: July 1 through September 30
Fourth Quarter: October 1 through December 31