Many claims for Social Security Disability benefits are denied at the initial application. While some individuals simply reapply for benefits by filing a new claim, your chances of winning are statistically greater if you continue with your original claim and appeal before an administrative law judge (ALJ). For claimants who have filed prior applications which were not decided by an ALJ at a hearing, it may be possible to reopen the prior claim with the earlier filing date. Your filing date is important, as Social Security can grant retroactive benefits up to one year prior to your filing date, depending on the onset date of your disability.
While an ALJ cannot reopen a claim already decided by another ALJ, a prior determination at the initial level may be reopened within a 12 month period for any reason. After 12 months, the ALJ may still reopen the prior claim for good cause within four years for a claim under Title II (Disability Insurance Benefits), or within two years for a claim under Title XVI (Supplemental Security Income).
“Good cause” may be found by providing new and material evidence that was not considered at the initial determination (such as medical records that were not procured for the initial review); evidence of a clerical error (a mathematical error, misapplication of benefits tables, etc.); or if the evidence clearly shows that an error was made (for example a determination based on medical records from the wrong person, or a determination based on application of a law later found unconstitutional). Good cause may also exist if a claimant presents evidence that a mental incapacity prevented him or her from requesting review of an adverse determination in a timely manner.
If you have filed prior applications for disability benefits, you may wish to consult an attorney or legal representative to determine whether the prior claims may be reopened.