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What are SSDI closed period benefits?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is provided to disabled workers who have a severe physical or mental health condition; who have earned enough work credits to be considered insured for SSDI; and who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.
Unfortunately, however, the SSDI process is congested with millions of applications each year, which means that some claimants apply for benefits, end up waiting a year or two for a disability decision, but find that before the decision is made by the Social Security Administration, their condition has improved to the point that they are able to return to work.
Can I get benefits if I returned to work?
Applicants who return to work before the disability decision is made by the Social Security Administration (SSA), or who have a condition that is not permanent but did eliminate their ability to work for at least a year, may still be entitled to SSDI benefits—referred to as “closed period benefits.”
According to the SSA, closed period benefits specifically refer to the “time between the onset of a disability and the time when the claimant is able to return to work and perform substantial gainful activity or SGA level work.”
How do I get my closed period benefits?
Applicants who believe that they may be entitled to closed period benefits should contact the Social Security Administration. Although eligibility for closed period benefits may exist even if a worker waited months to apply for the benefits after they returned to work, applicants who wait more than 14 months from the date on which their disability ended to file their application may eliminate their right to benefits.
The SSA may, however, allow exceptions under very specific circumstances. Talk to the SSA if you have questions.
Why were closed period benefits awarded?
In some cases, closed period benefits may be awarded even if that’s not what the claimant requests. For example, some claimants who file a Social Security Disability application may be surprised to find that the judge issued a partially favorable decision rather than a fully favorable decision. This can occur even if the claimant has not returned to work or does not believe they have the capability to return to work. In fact, it may occur even if the claimant applied for ongoing SSDI benefits.
If the judge makes a partially favorable decision, they are ruling that although the claimant was fully disabled and qualified for SSDI benefits for a certain period of time, the court believes they can now either return to their past employment or retrain for new work.
Winning SSDI Closed Period Benefits
Although winning closed period benefits will not provide ongoing wage replacement benefits for you or your family, it is better than receiving nothing. It’s also easier to win closed period benefits because the SSA avoids what will likely be a very costly ongoing disability payout and, instead, they will payout a set amount of money.
Additionally, if you were injured or disabled, and you were forced to quit work but when you appeared before the judge you have re-entered the workforce, this can be convincing evidence that you were not trying to “game” the system, but that you had a legitimate disability that eliminated your ability to work.
SSDI vs. SSI Closed Period Benefits
As mentioned above, SSDI benefits are offered to workers who are disabled, insured and cannot work for 12 continuous months.
Other workers who have not worked or earned sufficient work credits to be insured for SSDI benefits may also earn benefit payments through another program referred to as Supplemental Security Income or the SSI program.
If you apply for SSDI or SSI and return to work, or the judge believes that you could return to work, you may be entitled to closed period benefits. There are differences, however, between how your SSI or SSDI closed period benefits will be calculated.
SSI benefits will be paid for the entire time that you were disabled during the closed period. SSDI benefits, however, are subject to a five-month waiting period. Although filing for a closed period benefit for SSDI will initiate a disability freeze on your earnings record, SSDI benefits are not paid for the first 5 months of your disability.
So, for instance, if the court reviews your case and decides that you are entitled to closed period benefits for a 14-month period, you will only actually be paid for nine months because you will not be eligible for SSDI benefits for the first five months of your disability.
Bottom line: If you are disabled and you expect the disability to last for 12 continuous months, assuming that you meet the other SSDI requirements, you should apply for SSDI benefits. If it turns out that you are able to return to work after 12 months, this still might not eliminate your right to closed period benefits.