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How Long Must Your Impairment Last to Qualify for Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income Disability Benefits?

By R. M. Bottger 

The Social Security Administration defines disability as a medical impairment that prevents all types of work for at least twelve months in a row or is expected to end in death. Social Security does not provide benefits for short-term disabilities. The Social Security Administration does tell people about the duration requirement, but they often donít do a good job of explaining to people how this is applied to actual claims for Social Security disability benefits. When I worked as a disability determination specialist, I would be assigned cases of people applying for disability benefits due to broken legs, appendectomies, pregnancies, and other conditions that obviously are not expected to prevent all types of work for at least twelve months in a row. While it is fairly obvious to any reasonable person that these types of conditions generally do not prevent all types of work for at least twelve months in a row, the Social Security Administration uses the duration requirement to deny disability claims for some conditions that might surprise you.

Tuberculosis is generally not eligible for Social Security disability benefits because it will not prevent all types of work for at least twelve months in a row. Although treatment for tuberculosis lasts for an extended period of time, it only prevents work during the early period of treatment when the patient is isolated. Later in the treatment for tuberculosis, the patient feels better and can work.

Seizures are often denied on the grounds that with regular treatment and medication, the seizures will not prevent all types of work for at least twelve consecutive months. When a seizure patient applies for Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income disability benefits, the Social Security Administration looks at his or her medical records to find copies of blood work that shows the level of his or her seizure medication in the blood. If blood work has not been done, the Social Security Administration schedules the blood work and pays to have it done. If the lab work shows that the patient has not been taking his or her medication as prescribed, the Social Security Administration denies the claim for Social Security disability benefits on the basis that if the patient would take his or her medication as prescribed, then the seizures would be expected to improve enough for the patient to return to some type of work in less than twelve months. A typical denial notice in this case would state: ďWith regular treatment and medication, your seizures are not expected to prevent you from doing all types of work for twelve months in a row.Ē If you have seizures, make sure that you take your medication as prescribed. (See Seizures and Social Security Disability Benefits.)

     Many cancer cases are denied because of the duration requirement. When a person receives the diagnosis of cancer, often he or she is scared of dying. Then, depending on the type of cancer, the patient often undergoes surgery. Often, the patient undergoes chemotherapy or radiation therapy that has unpleasant side affects. When such a person receives a notice from the Social Security Administration saying that he does not qualify for Social Security disability benefits, it comes as a great shock. However, in most types of cancer, if the personís cancer is removed by surgery, does not come back after surgery, and does not spread to other parts of the body, then treatment ends in less than twelve months and the person can return to work. For most types of cancer to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the cancer either has to be unresectable (that means it cannot be removed by surgery) or it has to recur after surgery (that means it comes back after surgery) or it has to have distant metastasis (that means it spreads to another site in the body). (See Cancer and Social Security Disability Benefits.)

Sometimes a person has a condition such as a broken bone that normally heals in less than twelve months but that does not heal as expected. If the personís medical records document that the condition is not healing as expected and will prevent all types of work for at least twelve months, then the may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

 

 

 

  

 


 
 

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