After navigating the long, complicated and difficult application and review process to quality for Social Security Disability Benefits, you might feel like you’ve been "run through the wringer." But at least can rely on those benefits for the long haul, right? Well, maybe not.
If you are receiving disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is required by law to conduct periodic checks of your medical condition to determine if you still meet disability standards. These evaluations of a person's disability status are called Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs). At Cuddigan Law we are hearing a lot more about CDRs these days.
Currently, because of a massive backlog of CDRs at the Social Security Administration, individual reviews have been hit and miss. Social Security says the fault for the backlog can be laid squarely at the feet of Congress. Funding cuts over the past few years, SSA says, has made it impossible to keep current on CDRs. However, that situation may be changing especially with a new administration in Washington. Responding to allegations that some Americans are "gaming" the system to obtain disability benefits they are not really qualified for, Congress has increased the funding for CDRs and has mandated that SSA conduct reviews on a timelier basis.
So if you are receiving disability benefits in the near future you may also receive notice that your case is under review. Here's what you need to know now:
Although there are some differences from case to case, when you can expect to be contacted for a CDR generally depends on the classification of your disability. SSA uses three classifications:
- Medical Improvement is Expected (MIE) – Your review is likely to come at about 18 months after you start receiving benefits.
- Medical Improvement Possible (MIP) –Your case will be reviewed every three years.
- Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE) – Your review schedule will be once every seven years.
If you receive notice of a CDR, don't panic. The notice will be accompanied by a form. Absolutely the best course of action is to fill out the form completely and send it back promptly. Be honest in your answers. You can be charged with a criminal offense–perjury–for answering untruthfully.
If you receive the short form (SSA-455) Social Security is not expecting that you have seen any improvement in your medical condition. They are really checking for any other red flags which could affect your benefits such as earning more than $1,130 per month or checking the box that says your health is better than it was at your last review. The short forms are scanned by a computer and if any red flags pop up, then SSA will conduct a full review of your case.
If the SSA sends you form SSA-454-BK, the agency is doing a full medical review because it thinks your condition(s) may have improved. At 14 pages, this is appropriately known as the long form. Whatever you do don't skip over any questions. It is critically important that you fill this form out carefully and completely. Your continued eligibility for benefits depends on it.
If, as a result of the Continuing Disability Review process, SSA says you are no longer eligible for benefits, you can appeal. While your case is under appeal you can continue to receive your SSDI or SSI benefits, but there are strict procedures you must follow and deadlines you have to meet.