Social Security Disability: What If I Move Before I Get Approved?

With some exceptions, moving should not affect your Social Security Disability claim.

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For Social Security Disability (SSDI) or SSI claimants, moving to another county or even to another state should not have much impact on their case. (But you must update your address with Social Security so the agency can contact you.) SSDI and SSI are federal programs, so the rules and regulations covering these claims are usually the same regardless of the state in which they are filed. There are two exceptions to this rule, discussed below.

What to Do If You Move

You should report the move to your local Social Security field office, and depending on the status of your disability claim, the hearing office. Whether your move affects your case depends on where your claim is and whether you move within your state or out of state.

If Your Claim Is at DDS

Initial applications and reconsiderations (the first level of appeal) are handled within DDS, the state Disability Determination Services agency that makes disability decisions for Social Security.

If you move while a decision on your disability case is still pending in DDS, your claim may have to be moved to another office. If you move within the same state, your claim will probably stay at the same DDS office (in most states there is more than DDS location), and DDS will just change your address on file. If you move out of state, Social Security will notify DDS that the claim must be transferred to the DDS in the new state of residence. Unlike other social services programs that are administered at a local level, such as food stamps, there is no need for disability applicants to go through the bother of setting up a new case file in their new county or state of residence.

If You Are Waiting for an ALJ Hearing

Disability hearings (the second level of appeal) are decided by federal administrative law judges (ALJs). The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) in your state schedules and hosts the ALJ hearings. If you move within the same state, you'll likely have your hearing at the same hearing office. But disability claimants (applicants) who move to a different state "lose their place in line" in their old state, and go to the back of the line in their new state of residence.

If you are awaiting an ALJ hearing, Social Security expects you to notify both Social Security and the OHO. (To locate your local OHO hearing office, see the hearing office locator.) However, many disability claimants who are waiting to have their disability case heard by an ALJ are reluctant to report a change of address, because this could further delay a decision on their claim. It often takes over a year, and sometimes two years, for a disability hearing to be scheduled, due to enormous backlogs in disability hearing offices, and no claimant wants to wait another year to get a hearing scheduled in their new state.

So some disability claimants who move to a new state decide to take a chance by not reporting their move or new address to Social Security or OHO. If you are confident that your mail, such as a notice of hearing, request for documents, or request to appear at a medical exam, will get forwarded to you properly, this decision does not usually have any real repercussions (other than the inconvenience of having to travel back to the original state to attend the hearing). On the other hand, if the judge who hears your case finds out you moved, he or she may refuse to hear your case -- some judges won't hear cases in which the claimant lives out of state, because, in their view, the cases are no longer under their jurisdiction. A judge might be tipped off to your move if OHO receives any new medical records from a doctor in a different state and enters them into evidence.

If Your Old and New States Have Different Supplementary Payments

Here's another way moving to a new state might affect your disability benefit, if you're applying for SSI (Supplemental Security Income). Most states add a state supplementary payment onto the federal SSI payment each month. If your state makes this extra monthly payment to SSI recipients, the amount of payment affects both the amount of SSI you'll receive in that state and your income limit for SSI in that state. If you move to another state, your SSI payment is likely to change, and you could even lose your eligibility for SSI. For more information, see our articles on SSI income limits, the state SSI supplement, and our state-specific disability pages, for the various state supplement amounts.

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