In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you need to have a disability that keeps you from performing substantial gainful activity. This disability must last or be expected to last at least twelve consecutive months.
In the event that you do have a disability that keeps you from substantial gainful activity for twelve consecutive months, but your situation improves and you are ultimately able to return to work, you will be eligible for a closed period of benefits. In this instance, you would receive benefits for the closed period of at least twelve consecutive months that you could not work.
As a general rule, closed period claims are easier to get approved. Filing for a closed period underscores your honesty, and your willingness to return to work when your condition improves which lends credibility to your claim. It is also easier for a judge to approve a claim for someone who will only collect benefits for a specific period of time.
Judges can modify your claim for benefits in the event that medical evidence suggests your condition has improved enough for you to return to work. The judge will usually propose the change to a closed period at the hearing level, and you and your attorney can modify your benefits request.