Reopening a prior Disability Claim

Often, Social Security Disability claimants have previously applied for benefits, unsuccessfully. In these situations, it is always a question as to whether the previous application can be reopened in a current claim. Many factors are involved in answering this question. Generally speaking, however, it must be said that reopening a final decision from an administrative law judge is an unlikely occurrence, as great weight is given to previous decisions absent clear evidence that the decision was incorrect. Often claimants continue to allege that they have been disabled since their previous application, which then presents the possibility of reopening that claim.

First, the current application must allege an onset date that involves the previous application period, otherwise there is no need to examine the previous application, as it is not at issue in the case unless the argument is made

Second, a prior claim must be related to the current claim. This means that a previous application for schizophrenia cannot be reopened in a claim alleging only degenerative disc disease. In other words, the conditions alleged in the previous application must be involved in the present application.

Third, the age of the claim is relevant. If the previous claim is less than a year old, either a Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) claim or a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim may be reopened at will by the Social Security Administration. If the claim is more than a year old, Social Security may reopen an SSI claim that is two years old or less if there is good cause. For DIB claims, any claim four years old or less may be reopened for good cause. “Good cause” generally means new evidence is available or that an egregious error occurred.

While reopening previous claims is possible, it generally is not likely. Consult with your Social Security Disability Attorney to determine if it is wise to attempt to reopen a previous claim.


By Adam Kachelski

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

View all author posts →

Legal Blog Expert