Social Security Disability Benefits for Non-Traditional Workers

Social Security Disability Benefits for All Kinds of WorkersSocial Security disability is a program available to workers who have paid into the system over a span of years. If a worker has earned enough work credits and qualifies as disabled according to the Social Security Administration’s guidelines, he can collect the disability benefits he has earned. This applies to any person who has worked long enough and recently enough to earn the required work credits, including those who are self-employed, out of the workforce to care for children, or homeless. We take a look at each of these situations.

How Many Work Credits Do You Need?

The key to qualifying for disability benefits—other than being truly disabled—is having earned enough work credits. This threshold changes from year to year and differs according to your age, but for 2017, the following guidelines apply:

  • You can earn up to four credits each year.
  • You earn one work credit for every $1,300 in wages, so earnings of $5,200 will give you your four credits for the year.
  • If you become disabled at the age of 50, you must have earned 28 work credits. Younger workers need fewer credits to qualify and older workers need more. A worker who is 62 years old at the time of disability will need 40 work credits.
  • Approximately half of those credits must have been earned in the previous several years, depending on your age.

As long as you meet the work credit requirement and qualify as disabled, it should not matter what the nature of your work is or what your living circumstances are. Take a look at the following specific examples.


If you are a business owner, independent contractor, freelancer, or entrepreneur, you are responsible for paying employment taxes and accurately reporting your income to the SSA. Unlike regular employees who have Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) automatically deducted from their paychecks, you will have to pay your Social Security taxes in order to qualify for benefits if you become disabled. The work credit requirements are the same as they would be for regular employees and you must meet the disability standards, but otherwise, you are eligible just like any other worker.

Stay-at-Home Parent

Parents who leave the workforce to care for children have a very important job and, if they become disabled, the family often has to pay for a babysitter or daycare center to replace that parent. This unexpected cost can be burdensome for the average family. Social Security disability may be an option if that parent earned enough work credits while he was working and earned about half of these in the previous several years. If a stay-at-home parent has been out of the workforce for 10 years, it is unlikely that he or she will qualify. A stay-at-home parent will also have to meet disability requirements.


Your housing status has no bearing on your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. Whether you are living in a homeless shelter, with a friend or relative, or on the streets, you are still eligible for disability benefits if you meet the work credit requirements and can prove that you are disabled.


You are not permitted to collect both disability payments and Social Security retirement benefits, so once you begin receiving retirement benefits at the age of 65, your disability payments will stop. This should not have a dramatic effect as the amount of your payment should not go down. You will also no longer have to submit to the disability review process. As long as you paid into Social Security throughout your working life, you will get your retirement benefits.

Consult a New Mexico SSDI Attorney

Determining your eligibility for disability benefits can be confusing. Whether you are a regular full-time employee or fall into one of these other categories, you should consult the SSDI attorneys at Keller & Keller to ensure that you are eligible and that you submit a complete and accurate application the first time. Call for a free consultation today.


James R. Keller
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