Closed Period of Disability an Option

“I just can’t hold on any longer, I am so broke,” clients say to us. “I have to do something!”
Often as people wait months and even years for Social Security’s tangled web to shake out their claims, they consider dropping their cases, and trying somehow to work.The question is whether full-time work is realistic. If not, the case should proceed. Lab work and blood counts may look good, but that doesn’t mean there is the necessary stamina to work.

There are alternatives for pending claims. There is a possibility of asking for what is called a “closed period” of disability — in other words, the claimant WAS disabled, but has since become well enough to work. As long as the period of disability lasted at least 12 months, it is possible get paid for that isolated time period. This requires continuing the appeal process.

“Trial work” or “work attempts” are only safely done if 12 months have passed since the disability began. One requirement for eligibility is that a disability must have “lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” The US Supreme Court decided that if a claimant works before the 12 month “duration” requirement has been met, the claim can be denied.

Many months will certainly pass before a case is assigned a hearing date, and a request for hearing takes place many moths after an initial application. A claim can always be withdrawn at the last minute or changed to a “closed period.” This keeps open the option of proceeding, if a work attempt is unsuccessful.

In deciding whether to go forward with the claim, there are several considerations. First of all is credibility — you absolutely cannot bring the judge a clearly false situation, if health has vastly improved since application first was made. The claimant may need this disability claim again in the future, and honesty is key.

A further consideration is that a formal denial from a judge, in a case that is at the hearing level, is much more difficult to reopen at a later time. A withdrawn case would arguably be easier to reopen; the downside is that it requires a whole new application that includes reopening the prior claim. That means stepping back into the tangled web of the Social Security process, from the beginning. Call us if we can help you clarify a decision on this complex question.