Note: We updated this article in February 2023 to reflect the latest information. If the Social Security Administration approves you for disability benefits, they re-confirm your eligibility every 3-7 years. In other words, your first claim approval isn’t supposed to last forever! To ensure you still qualify for monthly SSD benefits, the SSA mails a short form for you to fill out. Then, they need you to complete this form and mail it back for re-approval before sending any more disability checks. It’s known as a Disability Update Report (sometimes referred to as Form SSA-455-BK). In November 2020, the SSA created an online version of Form SSA-455 so you can submit it from any Internet-enabled device.
What’s a Disability Update Report?
Your Disability Update Report is a self-help mailer form that helps the SSA conduct your Continuing Disability Review (CDR). The SSA created it to gather information from disabled claimants currently receiving benefits. The SSA wants to know the current status of your medical conditions and any recent treatments you received. (In this case, recent means any time a doctor treated you within the last two years.) The form also asks for information updates that happened during this two-year period, such as:
- Any education or training you received.
- Your attempts to start working again, if any.
What’s important to know is this: No human being reviews your completed Disability Update Report form. Instead, a computer scans it after you mail it back to the SSA. Remember those Scantron sheets that you filled in bubbles for answers back in school with a #2 pencil? Your Disability Update Report form is essentially the same thing.
How Can You Get Reapproved for Benefits Using This Form?
Don’t let all this school test talk stress you out — getting reapproved for benefits is easier than you think. The SSA says only 2.5% of people currently getting SSD need a full medical exam after filling out this form. You’re most likely to pass the computer scan and keep your benefits if all the following statements are true:
- You are not working.
- You’re not in school.
- Your condition’s the same, worse, or your total combined symptoms are the same or worse than they were before.
- You can list three recent doctor/therapy/hospital visits with correct treatment dates.
- Your doctor hasn’t talked to you about working again, or says that you still can’t work.
Why Do You Have to Do This?
You have to submit a new Disability Update Report form every so often because it’s the law. Section 221(i) of the Social Security Act requires all disabled beneficiaries to undergo another eligibility review every few years. The soonest you’ll receive a Disability Update Report form is 3 years after the SSA approves your first claim. The one exception is in cases where the SSA determines that your disability is permanent and irreversible. An example where you won’t have to complete this Disability Update Report every few years is if you’re born blind.
What Disability Update Report Questions Will You Have to Answer?
Here are some questions on the Disability Update Report you have to answer every single time to keep your benefits:
- Within the last 2 years have you worked for someone or been self-employed?
- Would you be interested in receiving rehabilitation or other services that could help you get back to work?
- Within the last 2 years has your doctor told you that you can return to work?
Smart Tips for Completing Your Disability Update Report
Filling out forms isn’t an activity most people enjoy. We want to make the process as easy as possible for you while protecting your monthly benefits. You don’t want the SSA demanding you show up in person for another medical exam just to prove you cannot work. Here are some bonus tips for making sure your Disability Update Report doesn’t trigger a human review and medical exam:
- Copy the blank form first in case you make a mistake while filling yours out. This tip only applies to paper forms the SSA sends you in the mail. However, you can still make copies and practice completing it before you submit the online version, just to be safe.
- Don’t write in the form’s margins, on the back or in the “remarks” section unless you really need to. Why? Because the machine scanner might reject your form if it can’t read it correctly. If the SSA can’t scan your Disability Update Report form, they’ll ask you to come in for a medical exam instead.
- Use the SSA’s website to change your mailing address, if needed, but don’t do it on Form SSA-455. If you change contact info on your Disability Update Report, the computer requires a person to sign off on it.
- Don’t forget to sign it! Also, make a copy of your completed form to keep for your records. Mail gets lost or destroyed sometimes. You might need that copy, and life will be so much easier if you already have it ready to go.
- Mail the form back by itself, without any other papers or attachments. You want to send your Disability Update Report back in as standard a format as possible. No staples or paperclips, please!
What Happens If The Form I Submit Isn’t Enough?
If your Disability Update Report answers aren’t clear or you mail it back late, you’ll likely have to undergo a medical exam. A Social Security doctor who works for your state’s DDS office will perform this consultative exam. It costs you $0, since the SSA pays for everything. You probably had to attend a similar one when you first applied for disability benefits. Since of the pandemic started, the SSA reports that it’s fallen behind on CDRs like these. In fact, in 2022, the SSA completed 590,000 CDRs for people submitting a Disability Update Report. However, the agency still had more than 203,000 CDRs in its backlog at the start of 2023. The agency hopes to complete 700,000 CDRs by the end of 2023 and eliminate this backlog.
Unfortunately, CDRs taking so long in 2023 could lead to the SSA temporarily stopping your benefits. If that happens to you, file an appeal within 10 days after you get that letter in the mail. That way, the SSA has to keep sending you payments until they finish reviewing your appeal paperwork.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Fighting the SSA to keep your much-needed benefits can be frustrating. If the agency decides you no longer qualify and stops your benefits, you still have options. Consult a lawyer about appealing your suspension within 10 days and your disability benefits will keep coming in. They cannot stop your payments if you appeal within that 10-day window! Only a lawyer can do that quickly and correctly for you. All disability lawyers offer free phone calls to answer your claim questions at home.
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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.