A Social Security Disability Claim Denial – Re-apply or Appeal?

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

If you get denied on an initial application for Social Security, you have three choices: do nothing, re-apply, or appeal. We will not address the “do nothing” option, as that clearly gets you no benefits.

Re-applying means starting over. It also means losing your rights to the disability benefits for the time period covered by the first application. In other words, by filing a new application you lose your rights to the benefits covered under the old application – – the one that was denied.

Even though it may require more work, in most circumstances, we advise clients to appeal rather than to start again. The amount of money received in back benefits under the two options can differ greatly. For example, assume you can’t work because of your disability as of January 1, 2012. However, you don’t apply for disability right away because you are hoping to return to work. You wait until January 1, 2013 to apply for disability benefits. And then, in May 2013 you are denied.

If you appeal, it could take another year for your case to be heard. On May 1, 2014 the judge awards your benefits – – and you get paid all the way back to January 1, 2012 – – that’s more than two years of retroactive Social Security Disability benefits (less a 5 month waiting period).

If you had started over by applying again, and filed a new application in May 2013, without a change in circumstances, you will probably get denied. At this point you are about to begin 2014 without any benefits. Now if you appeal you may wait until 2015 to have a hearing. If you are awarded at that time, the benefits do not go back to the day you last worked, which is January 1, 2012. In general, without very special circumstances, the farthest they may go back is to May 2013 (less a 5 month waiting period).

While the appeals process may vary slightly from state to state, the general rule is that unless your circumstances have changed significantly, it is usually better to appeal your case than to file again.