The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program provides financial support to people who are unable to work for at least one year due to physical or mental disability. While more than 13,000 disabled people received SSDI benefits in April alone, many people who are presently able to work are not aware that they may be eligible for benefits based on a disability that may have ended.
Persons who were previously disabled, but are presently able to work may be eligible for SSDI benefits covering what the Social Security Administration calls a “closed period of disability.” This term refers to a period during which medical evidence establishes that the person was unable to engage in substantial gainful work activity for a continuous period of 12 months, but by the time the disability decision is made, the person has shown medical improvement, whether or not they have returned to work.
In order to obtain SSDI benefits for a closed period of disability, the claimant must have been unable to work for at least one year. to maximize benefits the claimant also must file an application within 14 months after the disability ended. Persons filing after this time (but no later than 3 years from the end of the closed period) may also be eligible if it can be shown that his or her failure or inability to file a timely application was due to a physical or mental incapability.
Claimants who meet the requirements for obtaining benefits for a closed period of disability must serve a five-month waiting period – starting in the first full month of the closed period – before receiving the first monthly benefit and can receive up to 12 months of retroactive benefits from the date the application is filed with Social Security. Payments also last two months after the date of medical improvement or returning to work.
For example, consider a claimant who became disabled on April 15, 2008, but recovered and returned to work on September, 2009 and filed an application for disability benefits on December 1, 2009. The waiting period continues through September 2009. Since retroactive benefits only go back one year, the claimant’s first possible month of entitlement to a disability benefit would be December 2008 and last month of benefits would be November 2009. The claimant can receive up to 12 months of retroactive benefits for December 2008 through November 2009.
Because of the one year limit on retroactive benefits, it is crucial that a disabled person file a claim for SSDI benefits as soon as the person believes he or she is eligible. Otherwise a person who is disabled for several years may only get a portion of the benefits to which they are entitled. Not only do claimants lose out on years of potential benefits, but the longer a person waits to apply, the harder it may be to obtain the medical records necessary to show disability while they are still covered for benefits.
If you are disabled, the best way to get help with a claim is to contact a Social Security disability attorney well versed in the Social Security law and process.