Continuing Disability Reviews: How to be Ready

We ask all our clients to be aware of the possibility of a “continuing disability review” (CDR’s) of your case after you have been found eligible for benefits. By law Social Security is required by Congress to review all cases every three years. Many of these are paperwork reviews that will find just continued eligibility, and you will not even be aware that they occurred. If, however, you get a letter or postcard notifying you about a review, please contact us immediately for guidance. The appeal in these reviews must be filed within 10 days of the determination, if it is found that you are no longer disabled. has not improved.

While CDR’s have been around for decades, and some people may never have reviews based on their medical condition, the rules are all changing these days at the federal level and predictions or hard to make. For example, People Living with AIDS (PLWA) previously were not reviewed. That rule changed in January, based on evidence that many PLWA have in fact improved and stabilized and need to be reassessed.

A CDR can also be triggered if you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits and earning more than “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) per month. In 2016, the SGA amount for disabled non-blind beneficiaries was $1,130 per month. For blind beneficiaries, the amount is $1,820 per month. If you earn more than the SGA, your disability benefits will be in jeopardy. The exception to the SGA limitations is when the beneficiary is enrolled in a return-to-work plan through Social Security, which allows for a trial run of work for the beneficiary.

If a beneficiary’s disability is under medical review in a CDR, the case goes through a process similar to the process which occurs when you first applied for disability benefits. Any medical records since the determination are reviewed to ascertain if you have had medical improvement as it relates to your ability to perform work, and if you have the ability to perform in SGA. The SSA may ask the beneficiary to attend an examination with a physician retained by the SSA.

Our best ongoing advice: do your best to keep up with your medical appointments, get all the care you need, and make sure your doctor/nurse/PA/therapist knows everything that’s going on with you. If you do not have ongoing medical records, then when your CDR comes up you won’t have much evidence that you are still disabled. Do not tell your doctor, ‘I’m fine,’ if in fact you are having a lot of trouble with symptoms like diarrhea and fatigue or neuropathy. Many clients have been so used to their long-standing symptoms that they do not even talk about them with their medical providers anymore, and when they do not communicate their ongoing, longstanding problems to their providers, those problems disappear from the medical record, and thus no longer exist in the eyes of Social Security.

We always advise Social Security disability recipients to stress to their providers the need to chart everything. Providers may not note in medical records the longstanding, unchanging problems, because they are not actively treating them.