Does a disability need to be permanent to get benefits?

SSDI and SSI benefits are determined through a system that pays all or nothing. The Veterans’ Affairs system allows claimants to be awarded various percentages of disability, but in order to collect SSDI or SSI benefits, you need to be completely disabled according to the Social Security Administration.

Claimants are eligible for Social Security disability payments if their condition is expected to last for a year or longer, or if their condition is terminal. Sometimes, your condition may improve while you are involved in the application or appeals processes for obtaining Social Security disability benefits.

Often, the proof of this improvement in health is your return to work, or a rise in your earnings if you were working part time when you initially applied for Social Security Disability benefits. These wages may place you above the substantial gainful activity level (SGA).

If you have filed a claim for Social Security disability benefits, and your condition doesn't disable you any longer, you won't be eligible for disability benefits that are ongoing. However, you may still be eligible for SSDI payments for the “closed period,” which is that time when you were disabled and unable to work gainfully. This means that your condition would have had to be severe enough to prevent you from working above the SGA amount, and it must have lasted at least a year. You may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits in a lump sum for that time period.

Many claimants for Social Security Disability benefits have more than one health issue, and the level that they are affected by each disease may vary. It's a good idea to hire a qualified disability advocate or attorney to ensure that you will still get the disability benefits you are entitled to, even if some part of your medical status has changed.