The Social Security Administration (SSA) has dramatically changed its policy concerning applications of claims filed after an Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) denial. Traditionally, applicants were allowed to file an appeal of an ALJ’s denial to the SSA Appeals Council and still file an additional claim for benefits while they await for the Appeals Council’s decision. As of July 28, 2011, the SSA has changed this policy and now forbids the filing of a subsequent application while an appeal is pending.
This policy will have dramatic consequences. An applicant will now have to decide whether they should file an appeal to the Appeals Counsel or simply file a new application. The decision is a costly one in both time and money. If an applicant chooses to forgo the appeal and file a new application, then the applicant will lose all of the past due benefits owed to them up until the ALJ’s decision as the doctrine of Res Judicata (already been adjudicated) would preclude the applicant from alleging that they were disabled before the ALJ’s decision. Further, if the applicant chooses to appeal the denial in an effort to protect the past due benefits, then they may have to wait over a year simply to hear whether the Appeals Council will even review the case. Thus, the applicant may have wasted a year of waiting time that they could have invested in a new application. In a time when applicants are waiting several years before they are finally awarded benefits, this policy could have devastating effects on people who view their SSA claim as their last hope in this struggling economy.