If your application for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, you have only a limited timeframe to appeal your claim. If you decide not to appeal your claim or miss the deadline for appeal, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will close your case. However, there are a few circumstances under which it may be possible to later reopen your claim.
If you think you are entitled to disability benefits and your initial claim was denied, you may still have a chance to receive disability benefits. An experienced Phoenix disability lawyer can explain what your legal options are going forward. He or she can specifically explain if you may be able to reopen your claim and the benefits of this approach.
Reasons to Reopen a Disability Claim
Disability applicants who are approved for benefits often receive backpay back to the date of the initial application. This means they receive payments for the time they waited for their claim to be approved.
Because of this, it is generally in a claimant's best interest to reopen a closed claim and join it to a new claim, rather than simply opening a brand-new claim. This is because the claimant will likely receive a higher back payment on the old claim than he or she will receive for the new claim.
When Claims Can be Reopened
The SSA requires that in order for a for a claim to be reopened, it must be related to the new, current disability claim. If the two disabilities are not related or the same, SSA will not reopen a prior claim.
Additionally, the onset date of the claimant's disability on the second claim must be within the covered timeframe of the first application. The ability to reopen a claim depends on the time after the original claim was filed:
Within 12 Months after a Decision
If a prior claim became final less than 12 months before opening a new claim, the old claim may be reopened for any reason. This this includes situations if your claim was denied by the Disability Determination Services or an administrative law judge.
It becomes much harder to reopen a claim after 12 months have passed.
Up to Four Years Old
If the prior claim was more than a year old but less than four years old, it can only be reopened if the SSA finds good cause. There are generally two times when good cause may exist:
- If there is new and material evidence that was not considered in the initial determination. If this evidence would have changed their decision, the SSA can reopen the claim.
- If there is some type of obvious clerical error that resulted in an incorrect decision.
Older Than Four Years
If a case has been closed for more than four years, the claim can only be reopened in very rare circumstances. For example, if a witness intentionally made false statements or if there was an error on the face of a written decision, the claim can be reopened. Another odd circumstance that justifies a reopening is if a claimant was found to be dead and is later found to be alive.
How to Reopen a Claim
Reopening is not an automatic process. The claimant must file a new application for disability benefits and specifically request that the old claim be reopened.
The application should state that the onset date of the disability fell within the timeframe of the initial application. For SSDI claims, this must be within 17 months of the initial application. The SSA has the discretion to deny or approve this request.
A lawyer may have to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge to explain why your claim should be reopened. For example, he or she may explain that you have new and material evidence. A medical expert may testify that your condition meets or equals one of the listings in the SSA Blue Book or may provide other helpful testimony that was not available for your initial claim.
Getting Legal Help to Reopen a Claim
Disability benefits often serve as a lifeline for disabled individuals who are unable to work and otherwise support themselves. The Social Security application and appeals process can be very confusing. If you believe that you may have a valid reason for reopening your claim, it is important that you seek competent legal representation.
A disability lawyer is familiar with all aspects of Social Security law. He or she can explain the options that are available in your specific situation. He or she can discuss options involving appeals as well as others, such as reopening a claim.
Our experienced lawyers can talk to you about your claim during a free, no-obligation consultation. We only charge attorneys' fees if your claim is approved for benefits, so you can pursue all options regarding your disability claim without worrying about any fees that you are incurring.