In November 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) released a proposal concerning Social Security disability programs of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under the proposal, many SSDI and SSI recipients will be subjected to take part in more frequent ““continuing disability reviews” also called CDRs. A CDR is sort of like an inspection of your case to make sure you are still medically disabled. Public comment on this proposal closed on January 31, 2020 which means we can likely expect the new rules to be added soon to the “federal register” which contains the laws that govern Social Security.
In the comment section of the proposal, SSA of course defends this change by explaining that they’re trying to make sure benefits stop as soon as the person has experienced “medical improvement”. In other words, they are trying to see if the person “got better”. They argue that by increasing the number of CDRs they conduct each year by 18%, they expect to spend $2.6 billion less on disability benefits between 2020 and 2029.
As attorneys at the Law Center, we are concerned that more frequent CDRs will cut off benefits of individuals with serious disabilities. We feel that increasing the CDR frequency imposes an unnecessary burden on the disabled. However, we want you to know some information to keep in mind to get you through a CDR review. In reality, only a small portion of the people that lose benefits will have medical improvement. But that is assuming that you are able to navigate the bureaucratic hurdles that come with a CDR.
The CDR process is stressful and difficult to navigate without the help of a lawyer. The initial paperwork required in a CDR can include up to 15 pages of questions. Timely completion of the form poses a particular challenge for people whose disability includes difficulty with memory, cognition, or mental health limitations.
Another issue is the disabled person does not always get the CDR paperwork in the mail as they’re supposed to because they have not changed their address with Social Security. Also, a person could be homeless or transient and never get the paperwork. . Or the person could be in the hospital when it arrives. Hence, they have no idea their claim is being reviewed.
Additionally, CDRs require you to produce medical records that show that your medical impairment has stayed the same or worsened. Thus, benefits could be terminated if a doctor does not send medical records in a timely manner. Also, sometimes doctor’s medical records are sufficiently detailed to show that a person continues to have the same medical issues as when they were approved for disability.
As attorneys, we can also advise our clients that a CDR will be done, although we don’t know exactly when because SSA is often behind on doing CDRs. It is imperative that you continue to get medical treatment, follow doctor’s advice and keep a record of treating providers and contact information, so you can tell SSA at the time of the CDR.
It is important to keep in mind, that the local Social Security office requires the claimant to sign paperwork within 10 days if you wish to elect to have your benefits continue during the appeal period. If you do not do this, and appeal within the 60-day appeal period instead, Social Security will stop your benefits while you appeal. You may be able to get this money back if you are successful. On the other hand, if you are not successful in your appeal, you will have to pay the benefits you received while you appealed back to the government.