Young adults who can no longer work may have difficulty qualifying for Social Security disability insurance. However, a debilitating injury or illness can occur at any age. 

The Social Security Administration indicates that 25% of 20-year-old Americans will become disabled before age 65. These are the important facts young people should know about SSDI. 

Understanding work credits

The amount of work history individuals need to qualify for SSDI varies based on age. People who become disabled before age 24 must show at least 18 months of work history in the three years before the illness or injury occurred. 

Those ages 24 to 31 must demonstrate a work history of at least half the time between turning 21 and becoming disabled. For example, if a person had to stop working at age 29, he or she must show four years of work history. 

For individuals older than 31 at the time of disability, work requirements including at least five years of employment history in the decade prior to disability. 

Returning to work

As of 2019, disabled workers received an average monthly benefit amount of $1,234, which puts SSDI recipients just over the U.S. poverty line. However, some individuals who receive benefits can qualify for the Ticket to Work program, which provides incentives for returning to employment along with protection for future disability. This program also preserves medical benefits for recipients who choose to return to work. 

Young adults who become disabled without a significant work history may be able to qualify for SSDI under their parents’ work history. The SSA will review each applicant’s specific circumstances.