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Permanent disability do I have to have one to get SSDI?

Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “Do I have to have a permanent disability to receive SSDI benefits or can I receive SSDI benefits for a short period of time and eventually return to work?”

Although many disability claimants will receive SSDI benefits for a permanent disability, with medical discoveries and increased access to great medical care, there may be some claimants who have a severe health condition who are eventually able to recover and return to full-time employment.

Short-term disability benefits vs. Permanent Disability


So if you do not have to have a permanent disability how long does your condition have to last to qualify for SSDI? The SSA only offers disability benefits for claimants whose condition is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and who are not able to perform substantial gainful activity. So while you may not have to have a permanent disability, the SSA will not offer benefits for short-term conditions such as broken bones or pregnancy, even if you are unable to work.

This is true even for very severe health conditions. For example, if you are in a very serious car accident you may be denied benefits if the SSA decides you will be fully recovered within 12 months and you are able to return to work.

Closed Period Applications and Temporary Disability


What happens if you are disabled for over a year and you are able to return to work before the SSA awards your benefits? This is called a closed period. Closed periods occur if you apply for SSDI benefits and you are unemployed for at least a year, but due to the lengthy application process, you are able to go back to work and perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) before the SSA has time to review your application.

If this occurs, you may be eligible for benefits for the period of time when you were unemployed waiting for SSDI to be approved, but you will not receive any future benefits because you have returned to work. If this occurs you will be give a lump-sum disability benefit payment for that closed period.

When should I apply for permanent disability benefits?


Although you do not have to have a permanent disability to qualify for SSDI benefits, you will have to have a disability which renders you totally 100% disabled. SSDI is not granted for any partial disabilities (unlike veteran’s benefits or workers’ compensation benefits). You will have to be 100% disabled and unable to work at a substantial level.

So when do you apply for disability benefits? Assuming you have a severe condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months, you are unable to work, and you have sufficient work credits to be considered disabled, you should apply for SSDI benefits as soon as possible.

As mentioned above, the process can be very lengthy. In fact, in many parts of the country it can take months or years to win benefits and not all claimants who apply for SSDI benefits will be approved.
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