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“Help! When is my Social Security appeal due?”

When you get a letter from Social Security that denies your claim for benefits, you have the right to appeal.  The letter will tell you how much time you have – typically 60 days, plus an additional 5 to account for mailing.  That 65 day clock starts running from the date of the letter, not when you receive it.

The date you receive the letter could be more than 5 days, could be more than a week from the date on the letter.  If you are working with a lawyer, it’s not a bad idea to give them the envelope so they can see the postmark.  Maybe the envelope can extend your appeal time. However, once you’re in the federal courts you lose the 5 day grace period.

If you file your appeal late, you are likely to to lose your case by default. That’s what happened to a Social Security appeal from the federal district to the federal circuit court. In Lowman v. Social Security, an appeal was dismissed because it was filed on the 61st day.

Know your Court Holidays

In Lowman the claimant attempted to appeal a district court decision to the appeals court. She only had 60 days to appeal, but she waited until the 61st day to do so.  It was an honest mistake.  The 60th day fell on the day after Thanksgiving.

If the day after Thanksgiving was a court holiday, it would not have been the last day to appeal.  Unfortunately for the claimant in Lowman, the day after Thanksgiving was not a court holiday.  The courts were open. When the appeal was filed a day later it was too late.

What to do if you’ve missed your appeal deadline

If you are appealing from a decision of Social Security and your appeal is late you should ask the agency for more time to appeal.  Social Security is required to let you file your appeal, even if it’s late, but if you want the appeal to count you’ve got to show “good cause” for filing late.  There are many ways to show you filed late with “good cause,” but you’ve got to make a request in writing.

If you are filing a late appeal from a decision of the federal court you should request more time from the district court. To do so file a motion to the district court asking for more time to appeal.  In Loman the appeals court said that they couldn’t consider the late appeal because no request had been made to the district court to extend the filing deadline.  This request can be made up to 30 days after the appeal expires – though you still have to show good cause for a late filing.

Where to learn more

If you’ve still got questions about your Social Security appeal check out these resources.