To ensure that only those qualified are receiving benefits, the SSA regularly conducts continuing disability reviews (CDR) for SSI and SSDI beneficiaries.
For adult beneficiaries, it can be every three to seven years, depending on how likely your condition will improve. If your disability is permanent, expect your reviews to be less frequent. But the SSA will also conduct a CDR anytime if they have any reason to believe that your condition has improved.
Children receiving benefits will be reviewed once they reach 18 years old. For infants who receive disability benefits due to low birth weight, their condition will be reviewed after a year.
But how difficult is it to pass a continuing disability review?
In general, it’s a lot easier to ace a CDR than get approved for benefits. So you don’t have to worry about it too much. The SSA is not there to find a reason to take your benefits away. Once they determine that your condition has not improved and still prevents you from working, no action will be taken.
Still, that does not mean you can take CDRs for granted. Failing your disability review can make you lose your benefits. Though you may get them back, it will take a lot of paperwork and plenty of sleepless nights.
To help you keep your benefits, we’re listing down some lawyer-approved tips on how to pass a continuing disability review. But first, you need to understand the CDR process.
How Does a Continuing Disability Review Work?
The SSA doesn’t just conduct disability reviews because they want to. They are legally required to conduct periodic reviews of their beneficiaries’ continued eligibility. This usually happens every 3 to 7 years, depending on how likely your condition will improve.
Though, as mentioned, there are also factors that can trigger a continuing disability review, like:
- if new treatments for your disabling condition have become available
- if someone informs the SSA that your condition has improved or you’re not following your treatment protocols
- if you reported an improvement in your medical condition
- if medical evidence suggests that your condition has improved
In most cases, your first disability review schedule will also be included in your initial award notice.
Regardless of what prompted it, the SSA will send you a notice that your disability is under review. It will contain instructions on what you have to do, any forms you must complete, and what documents you need to submit.
The SSA usually asks for documents like:
- your doctor’s names, addresses, and phone numbers
- your patient record numbers from hospitals and medical facilities where you received treatment
If you’ve worked since receiving your disability benefits, the SSA may also ask for documents that reflect your payment amount, the dates you worked, and the kind of work you did.
The SSA will also gather additional information about your medical condition by asking your doctors, hospitals, and other medical sources for:
- your treatment records
- physical or mental limitations
- results of medical tests
If these aren’t enough to make a disability determination, they may also ask you to undergo further consultative examination, which they’ll pay for. They’ll also consider any new health problems you may have developed since your last CDR. An experienced medical consultant and disability examiner will then evaluate all the available evidence to decide if you’re still disabled.
In general, you can continue to receive social security disability benefits as long as you can prove that you still meet the SSA’s definition of disability. But the SSA will cut off your benefits if:
- they find that you can work because you’ve benefited from vocational training or advances in medical treatment
- there was a mistake in an earlier decision to approve or continue giving you your benefits
- you’re not following your treatment protocols or are disobeying doctors’ orders without a valid reason
- you provided false or misleading information in your application or in an earlier CDR
- you refuse to cooperate with them for no valid reason
- you are engaging in substantial gainful activity
If you disagree with the SSA’s decision, you can file an appeal. However, you need to do it within 60 days. Otherwise, you will lose your benefits permanently.
7 Tips on How to Pass a Continuing Disability Review
Despite the high passing rate for CDRs, you still need to prepare for it. Many have made the mistake of being complacent and ended up losing their benefits. If you want to keep your SSI or SSDI benefits, here are some tips on how to pass a continuing disability review:
1. Follow Your Treatment Protocol
One of the conditions for receiving disability benefits is that you must follow treatment protocols. This is the SSA’s way of ensuring you are doing your best to improve your condition.
If the SSA gets word that you are disobeying your doctors or are not following treatment protocols, they will schedule a CDR. They can ask your doctor for checkup records or any other evidence that you are following your doctor’s prescriptions.
Once they determine that your condition remains the same despite following your doctor’s orders, no action will be taken. You can keep receiving your benefits as usual. But if they find out that you are going against the treatment protocols, it can be a basis for stopping your benefits.
2. Learn More About Your Condition
During the review process, you will likely be asked questions about your condition. They will then cross-check it with your medical records. If what you’re telling them differs from what the records are saying, they will conduct further investigation. This can prolong the CDR process and might even result in a loss of benefits.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to learn more about your condition. Ask your doctor pertinent questions about your recovery status. Understand the basics of your disease and how likely you will be able to get back to work. This will help you answer any questions the SSA will have and pass your CDR with flying colors.
3. Be Honest With Your Doctor
In some disabling conditions, the bulk of a doctor’s diagnosis will depend on how the patient describes their symptoms. This is especially true for disorders that cannot be diagnosed through physical or laboratory tests, like mental health issues, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia.
Even if your condition can be diagnosed with objective medical tests, you still need to be honest with your doctor. How you describe your symptoms will affect their diagnosis of the severity of your condition as well as your limitations.
If you tell your doctors you can walk five miles even if you can’t, they’ll note it in their report. If the SSA reads that, they won’t be too inclined to believe that you’re too disabled to work.
4. Answer the Short Form Honestly
To let you know that your CDR schedule is up, the SSA will send you a notice by mail. It contains either a short form or a long form.
The short form, also known as the Disability Update Report, is generally for those with permanent disabilities. It’s only two pages long and contains questions about:
- post-disability employments
- recent training programs attended
- whether your health got better or worsened
- doctor’s visits for the past two years
- recent hospitalization or surgery
If your answers to these questions raise red flags to the SSA, they will send you the long form. The Continuing Disability Review Report (long form) is for those whose conditions are expected to improve. It’s ten pages long and contains more detailed questions about your medical condition and employment status.
As much as possible, answer the short form honestly. This will save you the hassle of filling up the long form and the anxiety of waiting for your results for a few more months.
5. Keep Copies of Your Medical Records
During your CDR, the SSA will either get your updated medical records from your doctor or ask for them from you.
If you can, keep copies of the medical records and any documents you’ve submitted to the SSA. Due to the volume of transactions, it’s not uncommon for the SSA to lose your documents. So it’s wise to keep a backup, just in case.
6. Inform the SSA of Any Change in Address
The SSA will send the CDR notice along with the short or long forms to your registered mailing address. If you moved and did not inform the SSA about it, those documents will be sent to the wrong address.
If you don’t receive it or do not send it back in time, the SSA may cut off your benefits. It may take several months before you can file an appeal and get your benefits back.
7. Hire an Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer
You may think that hiring a disability lawyer is only applicable when you need to take your case to court. That’s not necessarily true. The sooner you hire an experienced social security disability lawyer like Victor Malca, the higher your chances of getting benefits or passing the CDR. Aside from helping you gather proper evidence, he can also advise you on the best course of action to increase your chances. He has already helped thousands of disabled individuals in Florida. He can help you keep your benefits too. Call us now for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Long Does a Continuing Disability Review Take?
The entire CDR process can take anywhere from 1 to 6 months. Though if you have to go through the four levels of the appeal process, it may take years.
2. How Do You Check Your Social Security Disability Review Status?
Any updates about your benefits or the status of any application can be viewed on your personal mySocial Security account. Just log in to your account to see your CDR’s status. The SSA will also send you a notice once they’ve made a decision.
3. What Are Your Chances of Passing a Social Security Disability Review After Age 55?
In general, your chances of passing a social security disability review increase as you get older. Some conditions (dementia, cataracts, etc.) worsen with age, making you more likely to be considered disabled. Plus, the older you get, the harder it is to learn new skills or shift to a different line of work. This decreases your chance of getting employed or engaging in any substantial gainful activity.
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.
Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.
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.