Today I received the great news that one of my SSI clients from Springfield, MA was awarded benefits retroactive to 2010, even though her case was filed in 2012. I was able to get benefits this far back by asking the judge to reopen a prior claim and join it to the new claim that was pending before the administrative court.
Obviously, my client is delighted since the reopening of the earlier claim will result is substantially more backpay benefits than originally expected.
Reopening a prior claim is one of the most rewarding things that a Social Security Disability Lawyer can do. Believe me, its not just about the money... I feel a special sense of accomplishment because reopening a prior claim goes against the concepts of res judicata and issue preclusion that are paramount to our judicial system. When a lawyer reopens a prior case, he or she has a true feeling of "beating the odds" or "changing the norms" in favor of a disabled person. Social Security Law is unique with respect to the opening of prior cases and not all lawyers seem to be aware of this peculiarity. This is why, in Social Security cases, it is always a good idea to hire a Lawyer who spends a considerable part of his or her practice in this area of the law. In circumstances such as the one mentioned in this blog, an experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer can make a significant difference in the amount of backpay that is awarded to a claimant.
Reopening of prior claims is allowed by virtue of 20 C.F.R. 404.988 for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and 20 C.F.R. 416.1488 for SSI claims.
A prior claim may be reopened within 12 months for any reason. The 12 month period runs from the date of the initial denial of the prior claim.
A prior Social Security disability claim can be reopened within 4 years if there is good cause. An SSI claim can be reopened within 2 years for good cause. One way that a claimant can show good cause is by presenting "new material" evidence to the Social Security Administration.