The 12-Month Duration Requirement for Disability Benefits

One of the factors the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers is the duration of your impairment.  In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must have been impaired for a minimum of 12 complete months.  This requirement is designed to make sure that your impairment genuinely prevents you from participating in substantial gainful activity for a prolonged basis and isn’t likely to improve in the near future.

For purposes of satisfying the duration requirement, you cannot combine impairments.  In other words, you cannot take two separate but severe impairments and combine the collective months that you were impaired to meet the 12-month requirement. Many people are concerned that they won’t satisfy this requirement because they experience brief remissions from time to time, or the degree of severity varies from day to day. But denials based on the duration requirement are not usually issued in such cases. Rather, denials are usually issued when it’s clear at the time of the decision that the person hasn’t been impaired for 12 complete months and the impairment is likely to improve before the 12-month requirement is met.

In instances where it’s not clear whether the impairment is likely to improve or not before the 12-month requirement is met, the relevant state agency official may choose to postpone a decision, essentially taking a “wait and see” approach to see if your impairment improves or doesn’t improve over time. In all likelihood 12 months will have elapsed by the time you attend the hearing on your case, so whether or not you continue to be disabled should be reasonably apparent.

Navigating the ins and outs of the duration requirement can be tricky. Consequently, consider consulting Roger S. Hutchison, an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer. An experienced disability lawyer like Roger S. Hutchison will know that you can ask the court to find that the period of disability has been closed – provided you have already met the duration requirement – if your impairment has improved enough that you could return to work.