The Social Security Administration (SSA) has deadlines—usually, 60 days after you've received a denial—that you need to meet when you file an appeal for disability benefits. If you've missed an appeal deadline, you'll generally have to start your application all over again. But if you have a good excuse for missing the deadline, you can continue with your application even though you filed the appeal late.
In Social Security lingo, having a good excuse for missing a deadline is called "good cause." Good cause encompasses a wide range of serious situations. Factors the SSA will consider when determining if you had good cause to miss a deadline include:
Social Security has published some examples of circumstances where a disability claimant has good cause for a late appeal. If your reason for filing late isn't on the list, the SSA can still find that you have good cause, but any acceptable excuses have to be pretty important.
Social Security often takes health factors into consideration when deciding whether you had good cause for a late filing. Examples include:
Social Security understands that obtaining records can be a challenging process. Reasons where the SSA will find good cause because you couldn't get needed records on time include:
As a government agency, the Social Security Administration needs to follow certain rules when it comes to informing you about the disability appeals process. SSA mistakes in communication that lead to you missing the appeal deadline can be considered good cause, including:
If you filed late because of other unusual or unavoidable circumstances, and you couldn't reasonably be expected to have met the deadline, Social Security can find good cause for your late appeal.
Social Security will only accept requests to find good cause for a late appeal in writing. You can use the agency's Form 795, Statement of Claimant, to explain your good cause reason or you can send a letter explaining the late filing.
Submit the completed form or letter at the same time you file your appeal request. Make sure you file the appropriate request for the level of appeal you're seeking.
The SSA will review your request to accept a late appeal no matter how long ago the deadline was, but the later your appeal is, the harder it will be for you to show good cause for your delay. For example, if you had a heart attack and were in the hospital for two weeks around the time of your appeal deadline, the SSA is unlikely to find that you have good cause for filing a year late.
If Social Security finds that you don't have good cause for a late appeal, you'll have to begin a new application at the initial level. But sometimes the agency will consider the date you submit your written request for the late appeal to be a protective filing date for your next disability application. Having an earlier protective filing date means that you might be entitled to more in back pay if the SSA ultimately finds that you qualify for benefits.
Updated August 23, 2022
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