In 1999, the Social Security Administration (SSA) adopted a procedure that allowed it to process a subsequent claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits while a claimant's prior SSDI claim was still pending at the Appeals Council (AC) level of the administrative review process. Under this procedure, the subsequent application was sent to the disability determination services (DDS) for development and adjudication and the claim progressed through the administrative appeals process for a second time.
Over recent years, SSA has noticed an increase in the number of subsequent SSDI claims, resulting in conflicting decisions, improper payments, increased administrative costs and unnecessary workloads resulting in lengthy backlogs at the Appeals Council.
Social Security Ruling 11-1p; Titles II and XVI: Procedures for Handling Requests To File Subsequent Applications for Disability Benefits
Because of the problems described above, as well as the skyrocketing number of initial disability claims over the past several years, SSA is changing its policy for handling subsequent applications for disability claims of the same title and type. The policy change was communicated on July 28, 2011 in the Federal Register (Federal Register/Vol. 76, No. 145/Thursday, July 28, 2011/Notices).
Under the new procedures, generally a claimant will be prohibited from having two claims for the same type of benefits pending concurrently. Instead, in the wake of a Hearing Level denial, the claimant will have the opportunity to choose between (A) pursuing his/her administrative review rights on the pending disability claim, i.e., appealing to the Appeals Council, or (B) declining to pursue further administrative review and instead filing a new initial application with a new alleged onset date the day after the hearing denial.
Should a claimant choose to pursue the administrative appeal on the pending claim, SSA will not accept a subsequent concurrent application for benefits under the same title and for the same type of benefits, however, it will permit the filing of a new disability claim after the Appeals Council completes its action on the request for review of the pending claim.
While the policy change will have a negative impact on claimants in some instances, it will also result in several positive outcomes, including encouragement of meaningful discussions between SSDI claimants and their representatives after receipt of a Hearing Level denial, as well as increased emphasis on screening cases to ensure the best approach prior to filing the appeal or new initial application.