Social Security Proposes a New Stealth Approach to Booting People Off Disability

 

A new, under-the-radar, proposal from the Social Security Administration (SSA) threatens to strip away the benefits of hundreds of thousands of disabled Americans. If this proposal is adopted, over the next decade $2.6 billion will be cut from the Social Security Disability programs. How the SSA proposes to achieve these cuts is by increasing the frequency of Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs)—which monitor a recipient’s continued eligibility for disability benefits—for millions of SSDI and SSI recipients by adding another classification to the qualification list.

A Continuing Disability Review is a periodic medical evaluation of a person receiving disability benefits. These evaluations are required by law to determine if a beneficiary still meets the SSA’s disability standards. At present the SSA uses these three classifications:

  • Medical Improvement is Expected (MIE) – Your review is likely to come at about eighteen months after you start receiving benefits. If you are unable to return to work due to your disability, your Social Security Disability payments will continue and you will receive another review in another six to eighteen months.
  • Medical Improvement Possible (MIP) –Your case will be reviewed after about three years. If your condition has not improved at the time of your review, then you will continue to receive Social Security disability payments and you will be up for review again in about another three years.
  • Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE) – If your case is labeled as MINE that means that the SSA does not think your condition will ever improve.  However, you will still be subject to a review every seven years. As long as your condition does not improve you will continue to receive Social Security disability benefits until you reach retirement age, at which point your disability benefits will switch to Social Security retirement benefits for the remainder of your life.

Now the SSA is proposing to add a fourth category: “Medical Improvement Likely.” Those in this new classification would be subject to a CDR every two years. The SSA has not released data to show how many disability recipients could be affected by this new proposal, but advocates for the disabled say that, if adopted, this new regulation could affect an estimated 4.4 million recipients—many of whom are categorized by Social Security as Step 5 beneficiaries, people between the ages of 50 to 65 with poor health and no income

If, after a CDR, Social Security believes an individual’s medical condition has improved and they no longer meet the SSA’s rigorous criteria for disability, their benefits will be terminated.

 

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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