To receive disability benefits you must be disabled, of course. That means that your condition must be “severe,” must have prevented you from working and earning above the “substantial gainful activity” level and must have lasted at least 12 months.
However, you do not have to be permanently disabled to receive Social Security disability benefits (SSDI).
Let’s look at some situations where applicants can receive SSDI without being permanently disabled.
Short-Term Medical Conditions
It’s true that many people who are approved for SSDI benefits continue to receive them until retirement age, at which time they can collect Social Security retirement benefits.
However, provided only that you will be disabled for at least one year, and that you meet the other requirements for being disabled, you can receive SSDI even if your illness or injury will not permanently disable you.
A person recovering from an organ transplant is an example. Social Security rules provide that organ transplant patients can receive SSDI for one year.
Closed Period Benefits
Sometimes claimants apply for SSDI and then their condition improves during the application or appeal process, which can be quite lengthy.
If a claimant does not presently meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability, but their condition did satisfy the SSA criteria at some point in the past, the claimant may qualify to receive a lump-sum disability benefit payment for that closed period but cannot receive ongoing benefits.
Total Disability Required
While permanent disability is not required to receive benefits, total disability is. SSDI is an “all or nothing” system. That is, unlike the veterans benefit system and workers’ comp, in which claimants are awarded percentages of disability, to get Social Security disability benefits, you have to be 100% disabled. Generally, Social Security’s definition of total disability is the inability to do any kind of “substantial” work.
**These questions and answers are designed to provide helpful information that can be read quickly. They are neither a full explanation of the subject nor legal advice. To learn more, and to receive legal advice on which you can rely, contact me or another lawyer.