The Social Security Office Lost My Appeal Paperwork. What Do I Do?

Question

The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) says they never received my Request for Hearing from the Social Security office. The Social Security office says it must have gotten lost in the mail. But I think they lost the form. What can I do?

Answer

Paperwork regularly gets lost at Social Security, or traveling to or from Social Security. If you submit an appeal for your Social Security disability or SSI disability case and find out later, perhaps months later, that the Social Security office never forwarded the appeal request, you may have little recourse, even if you kept a dated copy of the appeal paperwork you submitted. In addition to a request for hearing, which Social Security should have forwarded to the OHO (formerly known as the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, or ODAR), this is also true for a request for reconsideration, which Social Security should have forwarded to Disability Determination Services for a review (the initial level of appeal in most states).

If this happens to you, your local Social Security office might tell you something similar to the following: "We understand that you submitted your appeal in a timely manner; however, we do not control the mail." Unfortunately, when it comes to appeal paperwork that never manages to arrive at its destination, there's usually no way to know whether the paperwork was lost in the mail or lost at the Social Security office. For this reason, it is always prudent to follow up on paperwork you mailed to the Social Security office to make sure they receive it before the deadline to request a reconsideration or hearing has passed (here's how to check the status of your appeal request). And always keep a backup copy of anything you submit by mail in case you need it. If Social Security or OHO doesn't have a record of the request, you can re-submit it before the deadline has passed.

If Social Security says it never received your request and the deadline has already passed, you can make a request to accept a late appeal and offer the backup copy as evidence that you sent in the request for reconsideration or appeal.

Written by: Tim Moore, former Social Security disability examiner

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