closed period benefitsThe road to winning Social Security disability benefits is difficult to navigate and it can take a long time for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to decide your case. It is not uncommon for the SSA to take more than a year to decide a disability claim. So, what happens if your condition improves and you are able to go back to work before Social Security approves your disability application?

If, by the time your claim is approved, you're no longer disabled, Social Security may decide that you're not eligible for ongoing disability benefits, but you are eligible to receive benefits for a period of time in the past. This is known as a closed period of disability benefits.

What is a Closed Period of Disability Benefits?

If after you apply for disability, you are able to go back to work, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can award you a closed period of disability benefits if you were disabled in the past for at least 12 consecutive months but are no longer disabled under SSA’s rules.  In a closed period of disability benefits, the date you became unable to work opens the disability period and the date you return to work closes the period of disability. Unlike an open period of disability benefits, a closed period of disability benefits has not only an exact onset date, but it also has an end date.

Here is an example of a closed period of disability benefits: Let’s say a person is diagnosed with cancer. Both the illness and the radiation and chemotherapy treatments prevented him from being able to work at any job for 18 months. Although the treatments were tough to endure, the cancer is now in remission and he has been able to restart his career. This individual can apply now and be eligible for a closed period of disability benefits for the time period when he was unable to work. However, he would not be eligible for benefits if, for example, he broke his arm and was out of work for two months. In the eyes of the SSA, that would only be a short-term disability which does not qualify for benefits.

When Can You Apply for a Closed Period of Disability Benefits?

You can still file a claim for a closed period of disability benefits if you have gone back to work provided you meet the statutory requirements. You must file your application in a timely manner. Otherwise, you could lose out on benefits completely.

What Will the SSA Require?

Like any other application for disability benefits, to qualify, you must demonstrate that the symptoms of your impairments prevented you from sustaining full-time competitive employment on a consistent and reliable basis. You will have to support your claim with solid medical evidence of your impairment which can include medical test results and letters from your healthcare providers explaining how your medical conditions limited you from working.

Are Closed Period Claims Difficult to Win?

It depends.  The disability standard is the same as other disability cases.  However, because the length of time of the disability is known, the SSA may have less of a financial obligation than in an open-ended disability claim. Additionally, since you must wait two years from your date of disability entitlement to be eligible for Medicare benefits, the government often does not incur that cost in closed period claims.

Should You Seek Legal Advice for a Closed Period Claim?

The short answer is yes. Even though a closed period claim may be a bit easier to win, there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of red tape to cut through. For a free evaluation of your disability case contact the disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska