Question of the Month: What is a Closed Period of Disability Benefits?

August 8, 2022

It is a common misconception that you are only eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you are disabled from ever working again. This is not true.

To be eligible for disability payments, your impairments must prevent you from being able to work for at least 12 consecutive months. You may be eligible for benefits if you were disabled for the requisite period of time, and then improved and/or went back to work.

What is a Closed Period of Disability Benefits?

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.

Nash Disability Law Attorney Demetra Geller offers this 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.”

Geller adds, “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.

In addition, Geller says that some cases start out open ended, but are won as a closed period. “Some of our clients improve and return to work, and think their case is over. They are unaware that a closed period is even an option.”

For more on this subject see our blog article: Going back to work does not always mean the end of your disability case.

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 health care 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.

“What we as a law firm would like our clients and potential clients to know is that all Social Security Disability cases are nuanced—each case has its own subtle differences,” Geller says. “That’s why we’re here to help you build the best possible case for the benefits you deserve. Let us put our training and experience to work for you.”

For a free evaluation of your disability case contact the Social Security Disability attorneys at Nash Disability Law. We have offices in Chicago, Elgin and Palos Hills, and we can help you avoid costly disability mistakes.