Applying for Social Security disability benefits is one thing. Getting your claim approved and receiving benefits for life is quite another. The Social Security disability benefits claim process is notoriously difficult. And since each claim represents a real person, it’s also quite personal. Every applicant has their own unique circumstances, and each disability diagnosis comes with different challenges. Your disability status may not define you, but it certainly affects whether the Social Security Administration pays you benefits. And once you’re approved for SSDI or SSI benefits, the SSA periodically confirms your disability status before approving more payments.
FAQs About How the SSA Confirms Each Claimant’s Disability Status
Disability status questions come up often among people who apply foner befits with the Social Security Administration. And your disability status (or symptoms) will determine how long you keep getting monthly benefit payments. So, we’ll answer the six questions that come up most often about checking your disability status below.
1. Does the SSA confirm your disability status after you submit your benefits claim? If so, how do they do it?
A: Yes! You’ll probably need a Disability Determination Services (DDS) medical exam after you apply for benefits. If you have a very obvious disability that’s on the Compassionate Allowances List (CAL), you might not need this exam.
Likewise, if your disability clearly meets the SSA’s internal guidelines, you may not need an exam. (If you have two amputated limbs, for example, the SSA probably won’t make you attend this DDS exam.) However, in most cases, the SSA’s own doctor will verify your disability status at your DDS appointment.
2. If the SSA approves my application, do they check my disability status again after that? If yes, how often?
A: If you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA checks in every 3-7 years to confirm your disability status. They do this to determine whether your condition/symptoms got better, worse, or stayed the same. If the SSA decides you’re no longer too disabled to work (under current requirements), they stop your monthly payments. Legally, they have to perform a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) every three years. If doctors say your medical condition will not improve, they’ll still review your case every seven years until you’re 65.
But once you turn 65 years old, these CDRs automatically stop. There’s a few reasons why this happens. After your 65th birthday, your age alone qualifies you for SSI. And if you’re on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the CDRs stop at your full retirement age. This typically happens when you turn 65 or 66 years old, depending on your birth year. Once you reach that magical milestone, your SSDI payments automatically convert to regular Social Security retirement benefits.
3. If my claim is approved with SSDI how often will the SSA evaluate my disability status?
A: How often the SSA reviews your disability status depends on your medical condition’s severity. If your doctor expects you to improve, they’ll conduct disability status checks more often. For conditions expected to improve quickly, your first disability status review is usually 6-18 months after your Established Onset Date (EOD). If improvement’s possible (but unpredictable), the SSA re-confirms your disability status once every three years. And if your doctor says improvement’s unlikely or unexpected (but still possible), the SSA reviews your case every seven years. Whenever the SSA requires a full medical exam to confirm your disability status, they mail you a letter.
4. What happens during these disability status checks?
A: When your disability case is up for review, you’ll get a letter in the mail. The SSA will send you one of two forms. The short form’s called a Disability Update Report and is about two pages long. If you receive this form, it is because your condition isn’t likely to improve. The SSA says only about 2.5% of people currently receiving disability payments require a full medical exam after this form. This update looks like a Scantron form (remember your school’s standardized tests?), and no human being reviews it.
The longer form is called a Continuing Disability Review Report (CDR). This one’s about 10 pages long and similar to your initial disability application. You’ll answer questions like:
- Were you hospitalized in the last year?
- How often do you see your doctor to treat your condition?
- Did you have any recent tests in the past year? (i.e., EKGs, X-rays, blood work)
- Have you worked in the last 12 months?
They will also ask you to submit any updated medical evidence about your condition or symptoms. If you choose not to send them that information, the SSA will obtain it on their own. Depending on your disability status or how you answer those SSA forms, one of two things will happen:
- Did you answer all questions honestly, clearly and completely within the space that’s provided? If yes, then a machine usually approves you to keep getting monthly disability payments. Unless the scanner sees something unusual, no person reviews your CDR form.
- If you wrote in the margins, added more pages or left a required field blank, you may need a full CDR exam. Any time a human being reviews your CDR form, the SSA’s more likely to have DDS doctors confirm your disability status.
5. How can I check my disability application’s status while the SSA reviews it?
A: Checking on your disability claim’s status is easy — and important. It helps you worry less and lets you give the SSA more documents or information, if necessary. (For example, if the SSA’s waiting on medical documents, call your doctor’s office and ask how to speed that up.) Just call your local field office, or check your application status through the SSA’s website. They’ll tell you what they need and give an estimated wait time for when you’ll get an answer.
6. What if they say I’m no longer disabled and stop paying my benefits — but my own doctor disagrees?
A: If you appeal within the first 10 days after your letter arrives, there’s hope. You’ll keep getting disability payments while they reconsider your case. If this happens to you, we strongly recommend talking to a lawyer. Attorneys can help you through the notoriously difficult appeals process and charge nothing up front. Getting your benefits reinstated upon appeal is much easier with help from a seasoned lawyer.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Everyone’s disability status limits their ability to work in different ways. The best way to get paid the most benefits the SSA owes you is having a Social Security attorney help you file. In fact, it makes you almost 3x more likely to get disability benefits. All disability lawyers work on contingency, so you’ll never pay anything for professional help unless you win benefits. And if you do win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free disability benefits evaluation online now.
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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.
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.