A closed period of disability is a period with a beginning date and a definite ending date established by the adjudicator. A claimant may be entitled to a closed period of disability if the evidence shows he or she was disabled for a continuous period of at least 12 months but is no longer disabled at the time of adjudication.
In determining the date disability has ceased, adjudicators do not necessarily look to the date the claimant returned to work, but rather apply the Medical Improvement Review Standard (MIRS). Under MIRS, an individual’s disability ceases only when (1) there has been medical improvement in the individual’s impairment(s) and (2) the physical and/or mental impairments, together with the vocational profile, do not prevent the individual from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
Social Security regulations direct that the claimant can only receive cash benefits for up to 12 months immediately before the month that the claimant filed for benefits. The regulations also permit a 2-month grade period for payment after cessation of benefits. If the disability ended more than 14 months prior to the filing date (representing the 12-month retroactive application plus a 2-month grace period), no benefits are payable.
Even if benefits are not payable, a closed period freeze may also apply for Title II claims. This disability freeze protects the claimant from the loss of future retirement or disability benefits that would otherwise disregard the period of disability. Since payment amounts are calculated based on an individual’s earnings over 35 years of work, years where the claimant could not work due to a disability could increase the primary insurance amount. Social Security Administration will consider a closed period freeze only if the claimant was disabled within the 36 months before he or she applied for disability benefits (and the disability met the duration requirement); disability ceased more than 14 months prior to the application date; and the claimant was mentally incompetent or unable to complete and sign an application due to his or her physical condition within the 14 months after disability ceased.