What Is The Continuing Disability Review Process?

Important: We updated this article in August 2023 to make sure all info below is both current and correct. When applying for Social Security disability benefits, many people believe they’ll receive payments for life. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) proactively reviews nearly all disability claimants regularly after awarding benefits. Most SSDI beneficiaries undergo a continuing disability review annually or at least every few years. The SSA does this to ensure people’s medical conditions remain unchanged and they still qualify for disability benefits.

What Is A Medical Review for Social Security Disability Benefits?

The SSA conducts two types of continuing disability review (CDR) check-ups: Either work or medical. The medical review examines your medical condition to see if you are still eligible for benefits. Federal law requires the SSA to conduct regularly scheduled CDRs before paying additional benefits. In most cases, a medical CDR must happen under federal law once every seven years.

When to Expect a Work Continuing Disability Review (CDR)

Certain factors can trigger a work CDR, even when you’re not expecting one. Here are a few examples:

  • You go back to work and fail to report it to the SSA. Even a few hours here or there or driving an Uber one night a week can put your benefits at risk. The agency calls this substantial gainful activity (SGA).
  • Social Security finds you’re no longer eligible because of medical improvement. This can mean someone reported you for not following your medical treatment plan. Or, maybe a new treatment for your condition is helping people like you start working again. Did you post a photo of yourself on social media that makes it seem like you’re no longer disabled? Be careful with what you share with others online and keep your status updates private!
  • Your benefits started as a child but you just turned 18. Childhood disability benefits generally only happen through the SSI program. However, adult standards that determine whether or not you can work are quite different. As a result, you’ll need another evaluation (and possibly a medical exam) to see if you meet the adult standards for disability.

How Often Does the SSA Check In with People Getting Disability Benefits?

The SSA uses different timelines to check up on people receiving SSD benefits based on each person’s disabling condition. According to the SSA, whether a medical condition is expected to improve or not determines the CDR schedule.

How Medical Improvement Affects the CDR Process

If your condition should improve, they’re review your case 6-18 months after awarding you benefits. But if your improvement’s only possible, not probable, you won’t undergo a continuing disability review for 3 yearsIf your doctor doesn’t expect you to get better, then your reviews happen once every 7 years. The SSA also reviews your case whenever you recover or return to work. One option for returning to the workforce while still receiving benefits is through the Ticket to Work program.

Bonus Tip: The Ticket to Work program can help you find a part-time job you feel like you can handle with your current health limitations. Best of all, you can work for 9 months without losing your Medicare or monthly SSD payments!

What Happens During A Continuing Disability Review?

For a continuing disability review, the SSA mails you a paper form to fill out. You will either receive a short form (easier to fill out) or a long one (similar to the initial application paperwork). The short form is only two pages long and typically goes to people who aren’t likely to see any medical improvement. It simply confirms that you still cannot work, specifically for health reasons. The long form is more complicated and several pages longer. It asks you for updated personal information, medical records, and any work done since you started receiving disability benefits.

Important: Get a more detailed look at how to fill out your disability update report form and avoid another exam.

Bonus Tip: No matter which CDR form you get in the mail, make copies of that blank form before you fill it out! That way, you have a few backups in case you make a mistake completing the first one.

Keep Copies of Your Continuing Disability Review Report for Your Records

Be sure to make copies of completed CDR forms before sending them back to the SSA. That way, you have personal copies for your records of past continuing disability reviews. This makes it easier to complete your new paperwork during your next report.

They Said I No Longer Qualify and Stopped Paying Me Benefits. Help!

If the SSA finds enough evidence that you can work again, they’ll suspend your benefits. In this case, appeal within 10 days of receiving your notice letter by mail to keep your monthly payments. Getting a nearby attorney’s help is your best way to quickly appeal the SSA’s decision.

That way, you have time to pull together evidence that helps prove you’re still disabled while receiving continued benefits:

  • Updated medical records that show your symptoms have not changed or only got worse.
  • Treatment notes from your doctor, or an RFC form completed during the past month.
  • A daily symptom diary can also prove helpful during your appeal.

How to Get Free Expert Initial Application Help

Need help with your initial disability claim or CDR paperwork? You may qualify for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney or advocate by phone. Having an attorney file your claim nearly triples your chances of getting SSDI benefits. Best of all, attorneys charge $0 for helping you unless you receive benefits. And if you’re approved, you’ll only pay one small fee.

Anyone who qualifies for help through this website usually receives disability benefits plus up to 17 months in back pay. This can mean getting up to $13,800 at once in addition to monthly payments.

Want free, private help from a nearby expert? Click the button below now to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

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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.