The answer depends on how long your temporary disability lasted, or is expected to last. If your disability lasted or will last less than 12 months, you cannot receive Social Security benefits.
Social Security has a very specific definition of disability: You must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) as a result of a mental or physical impairment, or combination of impairments, that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months, or result in death.
The key to the question in this post is that the disabling impairment(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last 12 months, or result in death. This does not mean that you have to wait 12 months to apply for disability, however. You can apply once you realize that you will not be able to work for at least 12 months, even if you have only been out of work for a month. For SSDI, however, there is a five-month waiting period before you can begin receiving payments. You can still apply before that five-month waiting period is over, you just won’t receive payments for those months.
What if I was disabled, but I have recovered?
If you were unable to work as a result of your medical conditions for 12 months or more, but you have since recovered, you may be able to receive disability payments for the period of time you were unable to work. Social Security calls this a “closed period.” Though you will not receive monthly payments going forward, once you are approved you will receive a lump sum payment for the benefits you should have received had you applied earlier.
What if a family member passed away from a disability?
Unfortunately it is not uncommon for an applicant to die while waiting for a decision on his SSI or SSDI claim, or for a person to die before they can file a claim. In those situations, certain family members may be able to pursue a claim and collect benefits on the deceased applicant’s behalf.
If the applicant died after he applied for SSDI but before he received a decision, Social Security will still decide whether that person was eligible for benefits before he died. A surviving spouse, a child, or a parent may be able to collect the decedent’s benefits.
If the would-be applicant died before he applied for SSDI, a beneficiary (spouse, child, or parent) has three months from the month of the death to file a new SSDI claim on the deceased person’s behalf, and up to six months if the deceased person had a “protective filing date” from previously contacting Social Security about filing a claim.
Caveat: SSDI has a five-month waiting period after the onset of disability before the applicant can begin receiving benefits. This waiting period applies even where the applicant died before receiving benefits. Thus, if the applicant died three months after the onset of disability, his survivor cannot collect any benefits. If the applicant died six months after the onset of disability, the survivor can collect one month of benefits. However, spouses and dependent children of deceased SSDI beneficiaries are usually eligible for survivors’ benefits.
As with SSDI, if the applicant died after he applied for SSI but before he received a decision, Social Security will still decide the claim. If the claim is approved, a surviving spouse, or the parent of a child applicant, may collect the decedent’s benefits.
However, if the would-be applicant died before he applied for SSI, a family member cannot file a new SSI claim unless the decedent had a protective filing date from previously contacting Social Security about filing a claim, and the family member files within 60 days of the protective filing date.
Caveat: SSI benefits are not payable until the first full month after the claimant files the application, or the first full month after the protective filing date. Thus, if a person dies before filing an SSI application, his survivors are only going to be able to collect about a month of SSI benefits.
How do I pursue a claim for a deceased family member?
You must send Social Security a copy of the death certificate along with SSA Form HA-539 “Notice Regarding Substitution of Party Upon Death of Claimant” and SSA-1724 “Claim for Amounts Due in the Case of a Deceased Beneficiary.” You can obtain both forms from your local Social Security office.