In order to be eligible to receive Social Security benefits – retirement, disability, or survivor benefits – a worker must earn eligibility to receive the benefits. The general rule of thumb is that for full benefits, the worker must earn at least 40 quarters of Social Security credit within the system.
For retirement benefits, you must have the full 40 quarters of Social Security credit earned – no partial benefit is available if you only have, for example, 39 quarters of credit earned.
Social Security Credit
A quarter of Social Security credit is earned for each $1,410 earned (in 2020). This amount is generally indexed each year – for example, the amount of earnings for a credit in 2019 was $1,360. So if a worker earns at least $5,640 in 2020, four quarters of credit are earned with the Social Security system.
Minimum Credits (disability only)
If you become disabled before age 62, disability benefits may be available to you if you have at least six quarters of credits earned. Of course, these benefits will be reduced from the maximum, based upon how many credits you happen to have earned.
If you become disabled before age 24 you need only 6 quarters (credits) during the three years before you become disabled in order to be eligible for disability benefits. And if you are between age 24 and 30 inclusive, you will need to have earned credits equal to half the time between age 21 and your current age in order to qualify.
If you’re age 31 or older you need to have earned 20 or more credits for eligibility. This number of credits increases up to the point where you are 62 upon the onset of your disability, when you’ll need at least 40 quarters, or 10 years’ worth of credits.