If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your initial application for Social Security disability, you can appeal that unfavorable decision. If you believe you’re truly disabled under the SSA’s definition of disability, then you may win benefits during the appeals process.
For the SSA to consider you disabled, you must have a physical or mental disability for at least one year or until death and not be able to work any job that would provide you with gainful employment.
In Most Cases, You Must File Your Appeal With the SSA Within 60 Days
It’s important to know that if you are filing for an appeal, you must do so in a timely manner. You have 60 days from the date you receive the notice of denial for your first application to file for the appeal. If you do not do so within the time frame, you must start the process all over again. However, there are some extenuating circumstances in which the SSA will accept a late filing for an appeal. Here are some reasons the SSA might excuse a late filing:
Reason #1: Destroyed Records
If the records or evidence you needed to provide for the appeal were destroyed in an accident or fire, this could be an acceptable excuse. These records must have been important to meeting the deadline, and the destruction must have occurred close to the cutoff date. For example, if your denial notice and date were in your home that burned down a week before you were supposed to file for your appeal, this would be considered reasonable for missing the deadline.
Reason #2: Illness
If you got very sick during the time when your appeal filing was due and couldn’t contact the SSA because of your illnesses, this might be viable. You need to prove you were seriously ill for this excuse, or the SSA may not accept it.
Reason #3: Additional Information Needed Before You Can File Your SSA Disability Appeal
If you requested additional information regarding why your initial application was denied from the SSA before your deadline, you have 60 days from when the additional information arrived to request an appeal.
Reason #4: Death
If an immediate family member became gravely ill or died, they might accept this reason for missing the appeals deadline.
Reason #5: Lack Of Understanding About the SSA Appeals Process
If the SSA gave you wrong or confusing information about filing for an appeal, it would not be your fault if you weren’t able to file on time. Additionally, here are some other reasons the agency may accept for late appeals:
- Due to your mental or physical health issues, you cannot understand what they required of you to appeal
- You misunderstood and sent your request to a different agency
- You did not receive a denial notice because the USPS lost or destroyed the mailed notification letter
The SSA may accept these excuses and allow you to file late. If you didn’t receive a notice, you’ll need to prove it. For example: Maybe they sent your notification letter to the wrong address, even though you gave them the correct one.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Did you know you can consult an attorney or advocate about your claim for free? A Social Security attorney can help you sort through confusing information from the SSA and fix any errors before appeal. In addition, having an attorney file your claim paperwork doubles your odds for benefit approval the first time you apply! All disability attorneys work on contingency. That means if they don’t award you benefits, you pay $0 for legal assistance. And if you do win benefits, then you only pay a small, one-time fee.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.