What is a “closed period” of Disability?

Posted November 2, 2015 by Premier Disability Services, LLC® In order for a claimant to be found disabled under Social Security’s guidelines, they must have a medically determinable impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last 12 months or greater (or result in death).  In some cases, a claimant may have a condition that meets this durational requirement but has now improved.  This is referred to as a “closed period” claim for disability benefits.  It is not entirely uncommon for a claimant suffering from a disabling condition to realize enough medical improvement through treatment, surgery, or medication changes to allow them to return to the work force.  This does not necessarily mean they cannot be paid benefits for the time period they did meet Social Security’s definition of disability.

Some examples of a closed period situation are as follows:

♦  A claimant suffers from severe uncontrollable seizures that prevent them from working for 16 months. The claimant’s doctor finally prescribes a medication that is successful in controlling the seizures.

♦  A claimant injures her back doing yard work. She tries conservative methods of treatment for a year without an improvement.  Her condition continues to progress and eventually requires spinal fusion surgery which takes another six months of recovery time.  At her six month post-op examination, she reports to her doctor that she is pain free.

In order to qualify for a closed period of disability, a claimant must still meet the definition of disability during that previous period; i.e. unable to perform substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last 12 months or greater.  In addition, a claimant who is filing an application for a closed period of disability must do so within 14 months of the disability ending unless their failure to timely file an application resulted from impairment.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) may also award a claimant with a closed period even if they are requesting ongoing benefits.  At times, SSA may interpret a claimant’s medical records as indicating that medical improvement occurred that allows them to return to the workforce.  If SSA awards a claimant a closed period and that claimant disagrees with the decision, they have the option to appeal that award and pursue ongoing benefits.  However, under these circumstances, it is important to obtain a statement from a treating physician supporting the fact that the disability is ongoing.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LCC®