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 most disability claims 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 2016 to 2020, Social Security examiners found that there were medical grounds to approve about 36 percent of initial disability applications, according to the agency's most recent annual report on the SSDI program.