Most people think of Social Security disability as an ongoing program where claimants receive benefits until death or retirement, but that isn’t always the case.
In order to qualify for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration requires an individual to have medical documentation of at least one severe impairment that has more than a minimum impact on their ability to work and is expected to last at least 12 consecutive months or result in death.
Sometimes, claimants improve after they’re off work for a year or more and they’re able to return to work full-time. Social Security calls full-time work substantial gainful activity, and in 2022, earning more than $1,350 per month is considered to be SGA for non-blind individuals.
Many people think that if they return to work full-time, their case is no longer worth pursuing, but if you have not worked full time for 12 consecutive months, you might still be eligible for a closed period of disability.
With a closed period of disability, you tell the Social Security Administration that you are only seeking benefits for this period you were off work. If you are approved, you receive a lump sum of backpay, but no ongoing benefits.
If your condition worsens and you stop working again, you have to file a new application.
In my experience, administrative law judges typically look favorably on closed periods of disability. They are usually much more willing to approve a case if they know it was only for a set period of time, particularly if a claimant is younger. So, if you were off work for at least a year, a closed period of disability could still be worth looking into.