Many claimants think they can only obtain disability benefits if they are permanently disabled.
This is only partially true, however. Whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you may be eligible to apply for a closed period of benefits.
Social Security regulations hold that to qualify for long-term disability benefits, a claimant must suffer from an impairment that prevents them from working that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
But to qualify for a closed period, a claimant must have been unable to work for at least 12 continuous months, and the disability must have ceased no earlier than 14 months prior to the date of the application.
The claimant must also show that their condition improved to the point that they were able to return to work.
Closed periods typically arise in cases of younger workers who suffer an injury that requires surgery. Both the time waiting for surgery and the recovery lasts longer than 12 months, making the claimant eligible for a closed period.
A period of disability is usually closed when a worker's earnings rise above the level of substantial gainful activity (SGA), currently set at $1,170 by the Social Security Administration.
Often, it is easier to get an application for a closed period of disability approved as it will be less costly for Social Security, and the fact that the claimant returned to work can make a claim more credible.
However, there can be pitfalls when pursuing a closed period.
If the period is for almost exactly 12 months and there is a lack of medical evidence at the beginning of the closed period, Social Security may disagree with the claimant's alleged onset date and find that he or she was disabled for less than 12 months, and thus disqualified from any benefits.
Because of these pitfalls, it is best to consult with an experienced Social Security disability attorney before filing a disability claim.