How To Apply For Disability if You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits

Art: Robin Mead

Did someone tell you that you can’t apply for disability because you haven’t worked enough? Or you don’t have enough work credits? Or you waited too long?

Maybe this is true. Maybe it’s not.

Twenty One Ways You Can Still Qualify

Check Your Date Last Insured – Was there ever a time in the past when you had enough work credits? Find out!

Check and Correct Your Earnings Record – If your earnings record is incorrect and you fix it, in some cases, you can magically become eligible!

Correct Your Past Taxes – If your past taxes were incorrect and you fix them, in some cases, you can magically become eligible!

Get Extra Credits – Sometimes people are just one or two credits short. Or just half a credit! Figure out your options.

Figure Out How Close You Are to Qualifying – Here’s the formula for calculating Date Last Insured. Figure out if yours is correct, and how close you are.

Go Back in Time Before Your Credits Expired – If there was a time in the past when you did have enough credits, but you waited to long to apply, you may be able to get approved by proving that you were disabled in the past.

Reopen an Earlier Claim – If you applied for disability in the past, and you did not go to a hearing, you may be able to get your previous case reopened.

Use Your Parent’s Work Credits – Does not matter what age you are now. If you were under 22 when you first became disabled, you may be eligible for Disabled Adult Child Benefits.

Use Your Parent’s Work Credits Despite Marriage – Many people are told that once you are married you will never be able to get Disabled Adult Child benefits. This is not always true. Scroll down on this page for information on marriage.

Get Widow or Ex-Widow Benefits – You may be able to use the work credits from your past spouse. Even if you were not married when they died. (Note: Starts at age 60 for most people, but age 50 if you are disabled)

Ignore What Social Security Says Right Now – It does not matter if Social Security says that you are not eligible right now. You want to find out if you were eligible EVER.

If you are under 30, check again – Many people are told that they can only qualify if they worked for at least five years. However, this is not true for people who are under thirty.

If you are over 30, check again – Ignore your current age. Look at how old you were when you FIRST became disabled. Now check again.

Be Poor – If you are poor, you can apply for SSI instead of SSDI. No work credits are required, and you can apply even if you have never worked a day in your life.

Be “Rich” – If someone told you that you can’t get SSI because you have too much money or own too much stuff, check this page.

SSI is not as good as SSDI – Don’t give up too easily. Try other options on this page first.

Use Your Grandparent’s Work Credits – If you first became disabled before the age of 22, you may be able to receive benefits off of your grandparents work credits under certain very rare and specific circumstances.

Apply for Other Forms of Disability – Private disability, state disability, veterans, life insurance, government employees, disability housing, disability aides, etc.

If You Are Married to Someone With Income – Tricky situation. Sometimes there are options.


Cindy Amends Her Taxes and Corrects Her Earnings Record

Sage Reopens His Old Case

Michelle Gets Approved with Expired Work Credits

Thanks for Reading

🌷 This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability 

🌷 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌷 Page Updated: 8/1/19

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12 thoughts on “How To Apply For Disability if You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits”

  1. So if I don’t have enuf work credits due to I was a stay at home mom n became disabled after my husband passed would I be eligible for Ssi r widow benefits in my case ? In emails depression n rheumatoid arth


  2. At age 6 – 7 had child psychologist say mentally I’ll always be younger. At age 20 had my first real job 2 years later just quit later some jobs I quit overs let me go. At 30 I was a field tech then 9/11 happened shortly after that had mid-life crisis quit and got a new job I hated and went to jail. After release got job working Valet. Got Fired. Worked as a mechanic my probation officer annoyed me to get another job. I would if I could. New charge and more jail time. When I got out found work as a gopher then as parking attendant. quit and moved to Utica, NY got work as tech support technician. Then arrested for failure to report address changed. Released, said I would go to homeless men shelter, instead went to mom’s first stroke, then arrested. Went to shelter this time. Pushed mom’s dead car 10′ and went upstairs to shower and get ready for return to shelter. Got out of shower told mom to call ambulance. Speech gone. got to hospital up a short ramp and 3 days later woke up unaware I had lost 3 days in a coma. 2 years later still speech is strained, right ear is deaf, unable to walk, can finally move left arm, legs are week still. I’m still bed bound.


  3. Thank you so much! So (b/c I’m horrible with dates) I found out that I was declared disabled by the SSA when I was 24 & according to their records (the social security statement) I may have been 1 credit short (which I made up the following year). Though I’m getting the IRS to send me what they have from then. One answer I can’t find *anywhere* – does it matter that I got the credit after I was declared disabled? Cuz I have WAAAAY more, but they don’t count anything before you’re 21. :/

    But thanks to #DisabilityTwitter pointing me here & your posts I already have an appointment with Legal Aid!


    1. This is an excellent question. Sorry that I don’t know how the formula works…. but I can tell you for certain that credits earned after becoming disabled do count and I have met people who became eligible for SSDI from working after already on disability, or whose check raised because of this. I can’t say it’s true in all cases though because the formula is complex and confusing. You could try contacting SSA and asking if you have a date last insured.


      1. Well I have worked on & off over the years (b/c rent, etc – dunno how they expect us to do everything they want us to on $700/month) though the last year I worked according to my SSA earnings statement was 2016. I’m guessing that means I’ll be ok? (I am meeting with legal aid on Monday too.) I wish I would have known I could have reapplied the next year (when I hit the magic *6* credits). In the past 10 years I’ve magically acquired 14 credits (though I haven’t worked in the past two years cuz I’ve gotten worse & ).

        But I’ll definitely let you know what the lawyer says. Gotta love all the hoops!


  4. I have multiple sclerosis since 2006. I don’t have any credits. I also don’t qualify for Ssi. How do I qualify as a disabled person in Michigan? I will lose my Michigan Medicaid in 9 months unless I can show I’m disabled. Social security won’t cuz they said I would be disqualified for no credits before they would look at my medical situation. Please help. I do not want to lose my insurance.
    New law says I must work 80 hours a month. I don’t even drive.


    1. Hi Janice, If you follow the suggestions on the page above, I hope something will apply to your situation. If you have specific questions, feel free to come back and post.


  5. I had payed in enough credits when I filed but they told me no so I trusted them….then it took almost 5yrs to get awarded only ssi….judge said he was goin to take 20 of my work credits and that I needed to go back to work for 5 more yrs to get them back knowing he was saying I was fully disabled.? Didnt really make sense now I read past credits dont expire….not sure where to even start….


    1. I’m sorry but I’m not able to tell what happened with your case. You could try following the link above to check your date last insured, and then also to check your earnings record. That will at least give you some more information.


  6. ” Many people are told that you can only qualify if you worked for at least five years. However, this is not true in all cases. If you were under the age of thirty when you last worked, make sure to check your Date Last Insured. Do this even if you are over the age of thirty now.” I swear my dienial said I qualified for ssdi.. but they gave me ssi.. also I was a stay at home mom to my oldest who was on ssi until he was 18(because they lied and said the medical examiner would have all the paperwork and info on my sons case at the exam I wouldn’t have to bring anything and we took the bus there in dead winter and she said no there’s nothing here..and my son was actually having a good day so they didn’t see his normal self also because I intentionally made him have a good day because I would have to deal with him in public if I did not. so that was his new turned 18 adult review plus they had a medical dr physically look at him at pain clinic which he should have passed.. any ways my disability I was saying i was wondering if because I couldn’t work because I was caring for my disabled son who was on ssi would have made a difference in me getting benefits or doesn’t matter moms who stay home to care for their kids dont qualify for anything but measly $750 a month?And I believe his disability also denied because he hadn’t been to dr’s because he had no money or medical insurance, brief homelessness.. So also your hint about being under thirty and not having enough credits anymore to add to that or lol all of this?


    1. Hi Ann,

      Unfortunately, many stay at home parents don’t qualify for SSDI 😦

      If you follow the links above you can see the formula for work credits to see if you think that you had enough work credits at the time you became disabled.

      If your son still doesn’t have insurance, you might look here to see if there are any other options to get him care:


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