The One Year Durational Requirement

by Editorial Board on November 26, 2010 · 0 comments

in Basics of SSD,Filing Initial Application,Severe Impairments (Step 2),Legal Concepts in SSD,Date Issues,Why People Are Denied

The “duration” requirement is one of the fundamental rules of Social Security Disability Law.  The Agency’s regulations state, “Unless your impairment is expected to result in death, it must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”  20 C.F.R. § 404.1509.

Social Security defines “disability” as the inability to maintain substantial gainful employment due to medical conditions.  In other words, you are disabled if you cannot function well enough to keep a full-time job.  Some medical problems keep you from working for only a short period.  Take for example a broken leg, a severe ankle sprain, or even a migraine headache.  Obviously Social Security will not pay disability benefits for short term injuries such as these.  The one-year duration requirement is Social Security’s standard for determining how long a condition must last to qualify for disability compensation.

Social Security uses the duration requirement to deny a large number of disability claims.  For example, the Agency often assumes persons undergoing major back surgery will recover enough to return to work within a year.  Persons undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer are usually denied until their treatment has lasted a full year or more.

Put briefly, Social Security assumes treatments will be more effective than they usually are.  Social Security also tends to assume patients will fully recover after their illness or injury, while in reality most people are never able to do as much as they could before.

Even though it seems simple, the one-year duration requirement is sometimes misunderstood by judges and lawyers.  The most common mistake is thinking the duration requirement means that the claimant needs a year of disability benefits eligibility.   Factors such as income, work, and the filing date of the claim can make a person ineligible for benefits for a certain period of time.  However, these factors are not related to the duration requirement.

For example, Joe Claimant is injured but waits a year before filing an SSI claim.  Joe goes through a surgery and physical therapy and successfully returns to work six months after filing for disability.  Some disability judges think Joe cannot get benefits, but they are wrong.  Joe’s injury lasted 18 months.  He can get six months of benefits for the time between the date he filed his claim and the date he returned to work.

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