Monday, December 8, 2014

Re-Opening a Prior Social Security Disability Benefits Claim

There are a number of reasons why a claimant should hire a Social Security disability attorney to help with a disability benefits claim. The more common reasons include but are not limited to: no up front fees, free consultations, gathering medical records, dealing with Social Security, and arguing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. One of the rarely talked about, yet very important reasons for hiring a disability lawyer is their ability to "re-open" prior claims.

What does it mean to re-open a prior claim?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) routinely denies disability claims. In fact, at the initial application level it can seem as though SSA is only approving claimants that are on the verge of death. Since so many people are denied, many claimants are second, third, or fourth time applicants. If your claim was denied at the Disability Determination Services (DDS) level (where the initial determination is made) and was not appealed, a disability lawyer may be able to "re-open" your prior denial without having to start from square one. The advantages of this specific method are plentiful. Re-opening a prior claim can result in more benefits, speeding up the process, and less documents back and forth.

Re-opening prior Social Security disability claims is governed by 20 C.F.R. 404.988, which can be found on the government website. While there are a number of ways a disability attorney can re-open a prior claim, one of the more straight-forward options is to do so within 12 months of the date listed on the initial determination, for any reason. There should be an emphasis on for any reason.

The second way a prior claim can be re-opened is if it is within four years of the date of notice of the initial determination and if there is "good case". Good cause is defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.989:

1) New and material evidence is furnished

2) A clerical error in the computation or recomputation of benefits was made; or

3) The evidence that was considered in making the determination or decision clearly shows on its face an error was made

Good cause for re-opening a case does not exist when the only reason is a change of legal interpretation or administrative ruling upon which the determination or decision was made.

There are many other ways that a case can get re-opened. If you have previously been denied disability benefits, you may have the option of re-opening the case rather then starting a new. It should also be noted that it is important to know whether you had originally applied for SSDI or SSI when you speak with a disability lawyer. Re-opening prior claims is one overlooked yet very important way a disability attorney can help you with your claim

Aaron Rifkind is a writer and attorney for Social Security Defenders LLC, who enjoys offering informational resources to the public. For more information on on Social Security disability benefits, feel free to contact Social Security Defenders LLC at
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