Closed Period of Benefits

A “closed period” of benefits may be appropriate where the claimant’s impairment has lasted for a continuous period of at least 12 months, but improves to the point where the claimant is no longer disabled at the time the claim is ultimately decided (in other words, at the time of adjudication). To establish a closed period, the evidence must show a fixed period of disability that has a definite beginning date and a definite ending date. In this situation, if he or she meets all other requirements, the claimant may be entitled to a “closed period” of disability benefits.

Here is one example: Donald Smith is involved in a serious car accident on January 1, 2010, and suffers severe personal injuries. Mr. Smith is hospitalized for three months, and has extensive physical therapy for the next twelve months. On July 1, 2010, Mr. Smith applies for Social Security disability. His initial claim is denied on August 1, 2010, on that grounds that his condition “is expected to improve within 12 months”. He files for reconsideration on August 15, 2010. His claim for reconsideration is denied on September 15, 2010 on the same grounds. Mr. Smith files a Request for Hearing on October 1, 2010. The physical therapy is five days per week, and Mr. Smith would not be able to work and go through physical therapy at the same time. The physical therapy ends on April 1, 2011. As a result of physical therapy, Mr. Smith feels well enough to return to work. He had been out of work for 15 months, but returns to work on April 1, 2011. Much later, Mr. Smith receives notice in the mail that his Social Security hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is scheduled to take place on March 1, 2012. Mr. Smith wonders whether he should even bother attending the hearing because he has been back to work for 11 months. The answer is “Yes!” He should attend the hearing and advise the ALJ that he seeks a “closed period” of benefits between January 1, 2010 and April 1, 2011.

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