At least one of a claimant’s disabling impairments must satisfy the one-year duration requirement to qualify for Social Security disability. Thus, if a claimant has two severe impairments that last less than one year each, but in combination last more than one year total, such individual may not be eligible for benefits.
An example should clarify this a bit more. Let’s say that Mr. Smith suffers a fractured spine in an automobile accident on January 1, 2010. He undergoes immediate surgery and applies for disability. He is denied and files for reconsideration, but is denied reconsideration and files for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
Meanwhile, he goes through eight months of post-surgery physical rehabilitation therapy. Mr. Smith has a miraculous recovery and is preparing to return to work on September 1, 2010, when he is diagnosed with cancer. Mr. Smith does not return to work and undergoes 9 months of chemotherapy. It is now July 1, 2011. Mr. Smith’s cancer treatment is a complete success, and his cancer is in complete remission. Mr. Smith returns to work on July 15, 2011.
The hearing on his Social Security Disability claim is scheduled for August 1, 2011. Mr. Smith attends the hearing and argues for a “closed period” of benefits from January 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011. He argues that he was out of work for one-and-a-half years due to a combination of impairments, and thus satisfies the one-year durational requirement. However, Mr. Smith is likely to be denied benefits because neither impairment individually lasted at least 12 months. A harsh result given Mr. Smith’s terrible ordeal.