Recently on our disability forum a user asked, I have been in a serious car accident, and although my prognosis for recovery is positive, it is likely I will be unable to return to work within the next year. I was wondering whether I might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits even if I am not going to be permanently injured. I heard something called closed period SSDI benefits and wondered if this applies to me.
What is SSDI benefits and who qualifies?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is awarded to individuals who have worked and earned sufficient work credits to be insured for SSDI, who have a severe health condition or injury which is expected to last at least 12 continuous months, and those who are unable to work.
Although many disability applicants are permanently disabled or injured, it is possible for claimants, who are planning to return to work at some point in the future, to qualify for benefits. The caveat, however, is that your condition must be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. If your condition lasts less than 12 months, you will not qualify for SSDI.
What do I do to get closed period SSDI benefits?
If you are applying for closed period SSDI benefits the process is the same as if you were applying for permanent SSDI benefits. You will still need to take the following steps:
Go to the doctor and get good medical evidence to prove your condition is severe, going to last at least 12 continuous months, and does not leave you with the residual functional capacity to work.
Apply for SSDI benefits either online, via phone, or by visiting the SSA administration office.
Be prepared to provide detailed information about your condition, job history, and to answer questions about your work capabilities.
Prepare yourself to wait potentially months before you are approved for benefits.
What if I can go back to work before I receive my closed period SSDI benefits?
If you have been in a serious car accident it could take months to recover. At some point, however, you may find that you are able to return to some level of employment. This is great news. If your condition lasted 12 continuous months and you did not perform what the SSA terms substantial gainful activity within that 12 month period, returning to work while you are waiting for your claim should not jeopardize your right to receive closed period SSDI benefits.
In fact, due to the length of the decision making process, many claimants who are applying for closed period SSDI benefits will be working by the time they are approved. The good news is the SSA is often more likely to approve closed period SSDI benefits because it is less expensive for the SSA than approving on-going benefits.
Bottom Line: If you have been injured in a car accident and you will not be able to work for at least 12 continuous months there is no downside to applying for closed period SSDI benefits for the lost months of work.
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