Social Security Disability: "Closed Period"

A closed period of benefits is when you are no longer disabled but you're approved for a period of disability in the past.

A closed period exists when a claimant for Social Security disability benefits or SSI is found to be ineligible for ongoing benefits, but yet eligible to receive benefits for a period of time in the past.

Qualifying for a Closed Period Benefit

A closed period of disability benefits is defined as the time between the onset of a disability and the time when the claimant is able to return to work at the SGA level. In other words, the date you became unable to work opens the disability period and the date you are able to return to work closes the period of disability. Therefore, unlike an open period of disability benefits, a closed period of disability benefits has a definite beginning and end date.

To qualify for closed period disability benefits, the disability must persist, or must have persisted, for at least twelve months. In addition, you must file an application within 14 months after the disability ended. Or, if you miss this deadline but can show that your failure to file a timely application was due to an impairment, you may be able to file an application between 15 and 36 months after the disability ended.

If you were disabled for at least a year but were able to return to work while you awaited a decision about whether your claim for disability benefits was approved, you may apply for a closed period of disability benefits. Or, sometimes Social Security will award you with only a closed period of benefits even though you apply for ongoing disability benefits. In other words, Social Security decides you are entitled to a period of disability but not to ongoing monthly disability benefit payments in the future.

For example, after reviewing a claimant's medical evidence at a disability appeal hearing, the judge may find that the claimant's condition has significantly improved since filing the initial disability application. The judge denies the claimant ongoing benefits, but can award past-due benefits (that is, backpay) for a 13-month closed period, if the evidence verifies that the claimant met the disability criteria for the 13-month period.

Ease of Winning a Closed Period Claim

It may be easier for a claimant to receive closed period disability benefits than it is to receive open period disability benefits. If the SSA approves an open period disability, it will be costly, because it is likely the claimant will continue to receive disability benefits. Approving a closed period claim involves less of a financial risk for the SSA. In addition, for some employees at the SSA, if you apply for a closed period because you were unable to work for a period of time but then your condition improved and you were able to return to work, it is strong evidence of the fact that you honestly suffered a disability.

SSDI vs. SSI Closed Period Benefits

If the claimant's application is for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), the claimant is entitled to receive the full amount of SSI disability benefits for the period of disability.

But if the claimant's application is for Social Security disability benefits (also known as Title II, SSD, or SSDI), the claimant is subject to a five-month waiting period. In other words, five months of disability benefits will be subtracted from the disability award for the closed period. There is an extra benefit to filing for a closed period of SSDI benefits, however. A closed period of disability helps protect your SSDI insured status and increases your potential future retirement or disability benefits, by putting a disability freeze on your earnings record for the time you were unable to work during the closed period.

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