In its most recent budget request to Congress, Carolyn Colvin, the acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration noted that in the coming year, she wants to “significantly increase CDRs (Continuing Disability Reviews) by 40% and SSI redeterminations by 25%. This past year, SSA completed almost 800,000 CDRs and over 2.2 million non-medical redeterminations of SSI claims.
By processing “more than one million full medical continuing disability reviews…we will save billions of taxpayer dollars….”
The prevailing mood in Congress seems to be that the Social Security disability program is riddled with fraud and overly generous disability awards and that Social Security management will be expected to show Congress that both new claims and existing awards will be carefully scrutinized.
What does this mean to you?
You can expect a greater likelihood that your case will be flagged for a continuing disability review. If the medical evidence in your case continues to show significant problems, your benefits will continue and you most likely won’t even know that your case was reviewed.
Most likely cases approved based on a listing level improvement – which are those usually approved at the initial application – will not be flagged for termination.
Cases decided on the basis of reduced capacity for work – which includes most favorable hearing decisions – are more likely to be reviewed and flagged for termination.
A judge’s approval based on functional capacity usually involves some subjective judgment on the part of the judge and, as you can see here, many in Congress believe that Social Security judges are far too generous. A continuing disability review gives SSA a second opportunity to reverse a judge’s favorable decision.
Younger claimants – especially those under the age of 45 – are more likely to be reviewed. The thought here is that younger individuals have a greater chance of medical improvement after they have access to funds (their SSD payments) and medical insurance (Medicare or Medicaid).
Statistically very few disability claimants utilize SSA’s work incentive programs like the Ticket to Work or the Trial Work Period program. SSA wants to dissuade claimants from seeing a disability finding as a permanent matter and they want to get the word out that you are expected to try to get back into the work force.
Claimants with medical conditions that are treatable but were not properly treated because of a claimant’s poor financial condition or lack of access to a doctor, will be reviewed for termination. Again, SSA will ask you to prove that you have used your disability resources to seek treatment and to seek employment when possible. Some of the conditions that are most likely to be reviewed include:
- back and neck problems
- knee and foot problems
- other medication treatable mental health problems
- medical issues associated with obesity
- RSD (CRPS)
How to Protect Yourself from an Improper Termination
The same advice applicable to claimants entering the disability system applies to those who have been approved: seek capable medical treatment, visit your doctor regularly and comply with your doctor’s treatment advice.
Ideally your condition will improve and you will be able to try to return to work. Social Security offers several very reasonable programs to help you try to return to work without sacrificing your disability benefits and if you can work you will be happier, financially more secure and not dependent on SSA to pay for your basic needs.
If your condition remains severely debilitating, if you are medication resistant or if medical science does not offer any reasonable chance of improvement, your medical record will support your ongoing need for disability benefits.