There is no limit on the number of times you can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A more pertinent issue, if your benefit claim is denied, may be whether you are better off appealing the ruling or starting over with a new application.
Unless you are applying on the basis of a different medical condition than before, disability lawyers generally favor appealing, says Lea Robbins, a staff attorney with the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, a professional association for disability attorneys and advocates.
But she notes that every situation is different. Whether it's best to appeal or reapply will depend on the particulars of your case. Why were you turned down? Has your condition changed since you applied? Can you provide new or better evidence that you meet Social Security's definition of disability — an illness or injury that prevents you from doing most paying work for at least a year?
A lawyer or professional advocate well-versed in disability law and Social Security procedures can help you weigh the pros and cons of each approach in light of your circumstances. Here are some general things to consider.
The date you notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your intent to file for disability benefits is called your “protective filing date.” If the claim is approved, you could get back pay, or past-due benefits, going back to that date (and, with SSDI claims, for up to 12 months before it).
The protective filing date remains in force throughout the appeals process. If you file a new claim, you get a new, more recent protective date, and thus less back pay if you win. This is “the main advantage to appealing vs. filing a new application,” Robbins says.
Odds of success
Social Security turns down nearly two-thirds of disability claims on medical grounds at the application stage. Many experts say the chances of ultimately securing benefits are higher if you appeal than if you start over.
SSA statistics bear this out. From 2010 through 2018, Social Security examiners approved around 36 percent of initial disability applications, according to the agency's most recent annual report on the SSDI program.
Over the same period, more than half of cases that were appealed and reached a hearing before an administrative law judge — the second stage in the SSA appeals process, and the first where applicants can make oral arguments and present witnesses — resulted in benefits being awarded.
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If your medical condition is roughly the same as when you previously applied for benefits, a new application is likely to meet the same fate as the old one, unless you have gathered new medical evidence about its severity. Such evidence can also be presented in an appeal, preserving the advantages noted above.
Reapplying may be a good option, however, if you are seeking benefits due to a different medical condition than the one that prompted a prior filing, or on the basis of an existing impairment that has markedly worsened since your previous claim.
Deadlines to appeal
You have 60 days from the date of an adverse ruling on a benefit claim to file an appeal. If you miss the deadline, you will probably have to reapply to continue pursuing benefits. Again, bear in mind that a new claim will have little chance of succeeding if it essentially mirrors one that was already rejected.
SSA can grant a late appeal request, but you must show you had good cause for missing the 60-day window. Examples of good cause could be personal circumstances that preclude you from filing in time, such as homelessness or a serious illness; physical, mental or language limitations; receiving inaccurate or incomplete information from the SSA about your appeal rights; or a fire or other accident that destroyed records pertinent to your case.
Another option if you missed the appeal deadline is to ask Social Security to reopen your claim. You can do this as part of a new disability application for a closely related cause. A benefit of reopening is that, like an appeal, it preserves your original filing date.
Within 12 months of a denial, you can request a reopening for any reason. After that, the SSA will only consider reopening a case under specific, limited circumstances, such as new and material evidence regarding your condition or a showing that the prior denial resulted from fraud or error.
Keep in mind
- With very few exceptions, you cannot file a new disability application if you have a pending claim for the same type of benefit. If you have an SSDI case at any level of Social Security's review process, you'll have to drop it to submit a new SSDI claim.
- You can file for SSI, the other disability benefit Social Security administers, if you have an SSDI case in review, although the SSA might consolidate the two claims.
Published July 26, 2021