Getting approved for disability benefits is one thing. But keeping it is another matter altogether.
As you may well know, not all social security disability benefits are permanent. If the SSA deems that your disabling condition has a chance of improving in the future, you will be scheduled for a continuing disability review (CDR). Depending on your condition, it can be every three to seven years.
During a continuing disability review, the SSA will look at two factors:
- your medical improvement
- your capacity to engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA)
Due to the fluctuating nature of psychological disorders, some mental impairments are considered permanent. As such, they are usually labeled as Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE). Beneficiaries with permanent psychological disorders are usually subjected to CDR once every five to seven years.
But if the SSA determines that your mental disability is treatable, you will be scheduled to a CDR more often. Once they determine that your condition is not anymore preventing you from engaging in SGA, they will stop your benefits.
Though the CDR passing rate is relatively high, it still pays to be prepared. Here’s how you can pass a continuing disability review for mental disorders.
How SSA Conducts Disability Reviews for Mental Disorders
One thing you need to know is that physical and mental disorders are treated the same during a continuing disability review. There are no separate evaluating criteria for mental disorders. As long as your condition prevents you from earning the same amount of income from before your disability, you can keep your benefits.
Once your schedule for CDR is up, the SSA will send you a notice. It will include a form you need to complete and mail back. Depending on your disability, it can be either the long or short form. The Disability Update Report (short form) is for those with conditions that are not expected to improve. While the long form ( Continuing Disability Review Report) is for those with conditions labeled Medical Improvement Expected (MDE).
Failure to submit the completed form can cause you to lose your benefits. After you submitted the form, the SSA will evaluate your answers to determine your eligibility for disability benefits. If they need more information, they will schedule a further evaluation. At this stage, they will review your medical condition and whether or not you are currently working.
However, not everyone receiving SSI and SSDI benefits will be subjected to work and medical review. Beneficiaries with permanent disabilities (those who received the short form) are usually spared from further evaluation. You’ll also be exempted from a medical review if:
- you have received disability benefits for at least 24 months
- you are participating in the agency’s Ticket to Work Program
Passing the Medical Review
Because there mostly are no physical manifestations, it is difficult to determine the level of medical improvement in mental impairment cases. Here’s what you can do to pass the medical review:
1. Keep Complete Medical Records
Since they do not have any physical basis, the SSA will rely mostly on your medical records. So be sure to keep all your medical reports, psychological test results, and records of all your visits to the therapists among others. This will help the SSA evaluate your case more thoroughly.
2. Speak Openly About Your Symptoms
Mental disorders remain a taboo topic in our society. People suffering from mental illnesses are often stigmatized. As a result, it can be difficult for you to openly discuss what you’re going through.
But speaking more openly about your symptoms can help you pass your CDR. Remember that the SSA relies heavily on the medical reports and observations provided by therapists and mental health professionals. Your therapists, in turn, rely mostly on what you tell them. If you won’t be honest about your condition, they won’t be able to come up with an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
3. Follow Prescribed Treatment Protocols
Part of the SSA evaluation is determining if you are making a conscious effort to improve your condition. If you are not following prescribed treatment protocols, it means you don’t want to get better and go back to work. The SSA can use this as a basis for stopping your benefits.
Passing the Work Review
Aside from medical improvements, the SSA will also check if you are currently working. And if you do, they will evaluate how much you are earning. If your monthly income is more than their prescribed SGA amount or if you have returned to work and did not inform the SSA, your benefits will cease.
To avoid such, make sure to notify the SSA of any changes in your employment status. You can also participate in approved vocational rehabilitation programs such as the Ticket to Work Program. These programs allow disability beneficiaries to “test the waters” for them to decide if they are now fit to work. If you enroll in such programs, your benefits will continue even if you are earning a full-time income.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.