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Can I reopen a disability case that was denied?

Social Security Disability claimants frequently want to know if they can reopen a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case they have filed in the past. This is understandable given the time and effort needed to apply.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does have specific rules in place to reopen certain cases, but let’s first discuss what happens after you file your SSI or SSDI application.

Claimants who meet the disability criteria of either the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs should file their application with the SSA. The SSA states they will make their disability decision within 3 to 6 months of the application date. This may seem like a long time, but millions of claimants apply for disability each year, and it is a time-consuming process for the SSA to review each disability application.

After the SSA has made their disability decision they will send a letter to the claimant. Acceptance letters will state the estimated date of the first payment and the estimated payment amount.

What if the claimant’s application has been denied? The claimant will receive a disability denial letter, but the claimant has the legal right to appeal their denial within 60 days from the date of the denial letter (the SSA allows an additional five (5) days to the appeal period from the date the denial letter was issued to allow for any delay in mail delivery). So claimants may have technically 65 days. The first appeal, in most states, is called the Request for Reconsideration.

Proving Good Cause for missing disability deadline

So what happens if the claimant does not file their appeal within the 60-65 day deadline? The SSA does provide for late appeals but the claimant must prove “good cause.” Good cause could include, according to the SSA, any of the following reasons:

• The claimant had a physical, mental, educational, or linguistic limitations (including problems speaking or reading in English) which prevented the claimant from filing the “Request for Reconsideration” within the 60 day period described above. Other examples are the loss of important records due to fire or theft, incarceration, illiteracy, and the inability to understand or read English.

• Non-receipt of a decision due to homelessness. If a claimant was unaware that a determination had been made in their case, then there is a solid argument to be made that they were unaware of when an appeal needed to be filed.

• Hospitalization or serious illness.

Failure to demonstrate “good cause” requires the claimant to file a new SSDI or SSI claim.

Reopening previous disability claims

But that’s not the end of the story. If the claimant files a new application they can, under some conditions, request that the SSA reopen their previous disability claim. Prior cases can be reopened for any reason within 12 months from the disability denial.

If more than 12 months has passed a claimant may reopen a previous case within 4 years from the notice of determination but they must prove “good cause”: a clerical error in the computation of disability benefits was made, new evidence needs to be submitted in regards to the previous disability case, or there is evidence that an error was made in the previous decision.

If you have been denied SSDI or SSI benefits and you believe that you are disabled and unable to work, the best thing to do is appeal the disability decision within the 60-65 day deadline. If you do miss a deadline you can immediately contact the SSA and find out if you have the legal right to reopen a previous case or if you will have to file a new disability application. Disability lawyers can help answer questions and make sure you get the disability benefits you need.