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Social Security Disability Duration Requirement Strictly Interpreted for Pennsylvania Claimants

Meeting the duration requirement under the Social Security Disability Act requires that claimants seeking disability benefits prove their severe medical impairment has lasted, or will last, 12 months or longer.  Those conditions that are fatal would also meet the duration requirement.  This “duration” provision is interpreted strictly by the Social Security Administration, and for those Pennsylvania residents seeking Social Security disability benefits, it is important to abide by this rule. Denials of disability claims are common when individuals fail to meet the duration requirement, in some cases by failing to assert proper medical evidence, and in other cases by failing to fully understand the details of the requirement.

According to the Social Security Act, “disability” is an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity” due to medically determinable physical or mental impairments that are expected to last for at least 12 months. The language here is intended to exclude from entitlement to Social Security disability all those conditions that are of shorter duration.  Also excluded are those conditions that would allow an individual to return to work within a few months.  One example may be a back surgery, which may cause an individual to miss an extended period of work, but it may not require a recovery time of a year or more.

Reaching the duration requirement of one year or more may prove difficult for medical conditions that have a period of remission.  These conditions may require a disability claimant to remain out of work and then allow them to return to work for a period of time.  In some cases, reaching the duration requirement is possible by showing that any attempt to return to work is an “unsuccessful work attempt.”

One issue that many people have is a combination of impairments. If there are two unrelated incapacitating impairments, the Social Security Administration will not combine these if alone they would not meet the 12-month duration requirement.  For example, if an individual receives back surgery and is out of work for six months, and then they have a heart attack during month five of the work absence, the Administration will not consider this unrelated, severe impairment to have extended the duration requirement.  The Administration states that “onset will not extend” back to the date of the initial impairment, if that impairment was disabling for less than 12 months.

At Needle Law, our Pennsylvania Social Security lawyers are skilled at evaluating how clients will be assessed from a medical standpoint.  We help clients meet the various Social Security regulations so that they have a successful outcome in their claim for disability benefits. If you or someone close to you has struggled with an illness or medical condition, and you are unsure if Social Security disability benefits will be available, contact our office to discuss your claim with a skilled attorney at no cost.  We can be reached at 570-344-1266 or online.

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