Can you get Social Security Disability or SSI for a short period of time, i.e. Temporary Disability?

Receiving Disability Benefits for a Past Period, or Closed Period

When a person decides to file for disability with the Social security administration, they may not be aware of it but they are filing for benefits under the assumption that their condition is likely to be permanent, or at the very least longstanding (SSA does conduct periodic reviews of cases every few years to see if a person has experienced medical improvement in their condition, but only a small percentage of individuals will have their benefits ceased). Social Security also assumes that the individual who is filing for disability will be totally disabled.

What does "totally disabled" mean for the social security administration? Simply that the claimant's condition meets the social security definition of disability which states that the individual must have a condition that is severe enough to last at least one full year and impose enough functional limitations that they cannot work and earn a substantial and gainful income during that time.

Given that social security assumes that, for a person to be approved for disability, their condition must fully disable them from the ability to work and must be relatively permanent, it should be easy to see that benefits are not typically awarded for short temporary periods of time. In other words, SSA does not offer temporary disability benefits.

Therefore, if you have a claim for disability benefits at the disability application level or the reconsideration appeal level, then the likely outcome will be that you will be denied for Social Security Disability or denied for SSI if your records do not indicate that you are both currently disabled and likely to stay that way for at least twelve months (twelve months is the duration minimum for qualifying for disability).

Having said that, though, if your case is decided at the second appeal level, which is the level of an administrative law judge disability hearing, then it will be possible to receive disability benefits for a specified period of time which exists in the past, even if your condition has improved and you do not currently satisfy the social security administration definition of disability.

This is known as a "Closed Period" and while a person who is awarded for a closed period will not receive regular monthly benefit checks, they may end up receiving thousands of dollars for a past period of time in which they disabled to the extent that they could not work and earn a substantial and gainful living.

Note: Closed periods are never awarded at the initial claim or reconsideration appeal levels, but only when a case has gone before a disability judge and, usually, only when a disability attorney or non-attorney representative is involved and can argue for the awarding of a closed period. This, of course, points out again why claimants who have been previously denied at the lower levels should not give up on their claims--because even if continuing monthly benefits are not won, thousands of dollars received for a closed period can make a tremendous difference in a claimant's financial position.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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