Monday, April 9, 2012

Reopening SSD Applications

There is a full 5 month waiting period for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits.  Thus, if you became disabled on June 25, 2009, known as the alleged onset date (“AOD”), then you would first become eligible to receive SSD benefits as of December 2009, known as the date of eligibility (“DOE”).

The most an application can seek in terms of retroactive SSD benefits is 12 months before the month in which the application is filed.  Therefore, if you file an application on May 3, 2011, the earliest DOE would be May 2010, assuming that the AOD predates May 2010 by 5 full months.  If the AOD were June 25, 2009, then the May 3, 2011 application would have a May 2010 DOE, and SSD benefits from December 2009 through April 2010 would be lost.

The above facts were taken from one of my client’s claims, which was approved today without a hearing.  Fortunately for the claimant, I was able to avoid her losing the 6 months of SSD benefits from December 2009 through April 2010, by reopening a prior application that she had filed unsuccessfully before retaining me.

Reopening a prior application is only automatic within 12 months after the initial determination on an SSD application.  The regulations provide that an application can be reopened within 4 years for good cause, which includes new and material evidence.  I moved to reopen the prior application upon filing and when submitting a request for a fully favorable decision on the record to avoid the need for a hearing.  The Administrative Law Judge approved the new application, and reopened the prior application.

Relying on good cause to reopen an application is advisable only as a last resort.  The better practice is to file an appeal, or seek to reopen within the 12 month period.

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