Appeal a decision or start over?

Q: If an application for Social Security disability benefits is not approved, is it better to appeal that decision or to file a new application?  

A: It is usually better to appeal the decision rather than start over, if you disagree with the decision received on a Social Security application. Among other reasons, using the appeal process keeps an application open and still pending, including the possibility of retroactive payments.  

Most Social Security decisions can be appealed. Four levels of appeal exist. If not satisfied with the decision at one level, appeal can be made to the next.  

If you intend to file an appeal, do so quickly. Strict timeframes, usually 60 days, exist during which you can file an appeal. With few exceptions, the last decision becomes final if timeframes are not met. Do not wait. Additional evidence can be submitted afterwards. Stay within the timeframes. 

Be sure you understand the decision. For example, is the disability denial because you did not have enough work at the right time or because the medical definition of disability was not met? This tells you the issue to be appealed, if desired.  

If the issue is medical denial, Social Security disability decisions can be appealed online. Details are at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability.htm.  

More about the Social Security appeals process is in “Your Right to Question the Decision Made on Your Claim” (publication 05-10058) available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10058.html, by calling the SSA national number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by contacting any SSA office. 

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