To Appeal or Start Again?

On July 28, 2011, Social Security Ruling (SSR) 11-1p went into effect.  Under the new ruling, Social Security will no longer process a subsequent disability claim if you already have a claim of the same type pending in their administrative review process.  Claimants who have received unfavorable decisions at the hearing level and who want to file new applications for the same type of benefits will now have to decide between appealing the prior decision and filing a new claim.  This means if a claimant appeals a prior decision from an Administrative Law Judge denying him Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) benefits, Social Security will not accept a new SSDI application while the appeal is pending. 

Understanding the New Changes

This ruling represents a dramatic change in Social Security policy.  Before this ruling, claimants who had hearings before an Administrative Law Judge and were denied benefits were able to appeal the unfavorable decision and begin a new application for Social Security benefits at the same time.  Since the appeals process can be lengthy – at times, taking upwards of  a year  – filing a new application allowed claimants to pursue benefits while challenging legal or factual errors in the unfavorable decision.  Often, claimants were awarded benefits in the new applications while they waited for a decision on their appeals.   Because benefits in a subsequent claim can go back as far as the day after the date of the unfavorable hearing decision, these claimants were able to secure monthly benefits during the long wait while their appeals were pending at the Appeals Council or United States District Court.

Under the new ruling, a claimant may begin a new application for benefits only in certain, narrow circumstances.   Social Security will accept a new application for benefits from a claimant if he decides not to appeal his earlier claim.   A claimant may also file a claim for a different type of benefits while an appeal is pending.  For example, a claimant appealing a prior unfavorable decision in a claim for SSDI benefits may begin a new claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Choose Wisely

However, these decisions may affect the amount of retroactive benefits a claimant is eligible to receive, and should not be made lightly.  Some claimants may be eligible for retroactive benefits totaling tens of thousands of dollars, and decisions regarding appeals may have other important, non-financial repercussions as well.  For these reasons, the decision to pursue an appeal or begin a new claim is extraordinarily important.

Not Sure What To Do? Talk to an Attorney

If you have had a prior Social Security hearing and were denied benefits and you are now trying to decide whether to file a new claim or appeal the prior decision, it may be helpful to consult an attorney.  At Keefe Disability Law, we regularly provide our clients with advice regarding the impact and consequences of this new ruling, and provide guidance as they make this vital decision.