Losing Disability Credits: When Women Leave the Workforce

individual who earned credits 20 years ago may find that not all of them count. For example, consider the case of a 42-year-old woman who worked full-time from age 21 to 31 and thus earned 40 credits. She has twice the number of credits required to receive benefits if she becomes disabled at age 32. However, if this woman exits the workforce at 32 to raise young children or attend school full-time:

When she re-enters the job market as a full-time worker at, say, age 42, she has no qualifying credits, and will not receive benefits if she becomes disabled.
As she ages, the bar becomes higher; thus, if she re-enters the workforce at 44, because she is older she would need 22 credits, meaning she would have to work at least 5 years more before regaining her eligibility.
Any additional credits she needs can be drawn from the earlier years she worked, but the requirement for 20 credits in the 10 previous years does not change.
Furthermore, a woman entering the workforce for the first time as an older adult — as the result of a divorce, for instance — has to earn all her required credits in the current 10 year period. Thus, a 44-year-old woman who had not previously earned credits would not be eligible for disability until age 52.
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