In order to receive social security disability benefits, you must:
- have earned at least 20 Quarters of Coverage (QC) during the last 10 years, and
- be “fully insured.” See below for more details. Exceptions apply for those under 31 years old and in certain other instances.
You must be considered “fully insured” under the Social Security program before you can receive SSDI. The SSA considers the number of quarters of coverage (now also called “credits”) you earned to determine if you are insured. A Quarter of Coverage (QC) is a block of 3 months, so you can earn up to 4 QCs in one year. You need to earn a minimum amount of money to earn a QC/credit.
To be considered “fully insured” for purposes of eligibility for social security disability benefits, you need at least one credit (QC) for each calendar year between the year you turned 21 and the year you become disabled, turn 62, or the year before you die. Regardless of age, you need at least 6 credits (QCs) to be determined to be “fully insured.” Any year (all or part of a year) that was included in a period of disability is not included in determining the number of QCs you need. The maximum number of credits is 40.
If you are fully insured and have earned the 40 quarters of coverage, you earn the “permanently insured” status. Being “permanently insured” means you will not lose your fully-insured status when you stop working. If you are not “fully insured,” you are not eligible to receive benefits, but just being fully insured does not guarantee that you will received benefits of course, because that determination is also based on your disability.
EXAMPLE: If you were born in 1949 and worked under covered employment from 1971-77, you would have earned a total of 28 QCs (7 years x 4 QCs a year). You had already attained age 21 in 1970 when you worked those years.
Under this scenario, you were “fully insured” after you earned 6 QCs. You continued to be fully insured through 1998 (you turned 21 in 1970 and you earned 28 QCs, so 1970 + 28 QCs = 1998). After 1998, you were no longer fully insured. Because you earned only 28 QCs, you were never “permanently insured.”