How to Complete a Disability Update Report (SSA-455-BK)

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Robin Mead

Social Security has two types of review forms they like to send out.

One is called a Disability Update Report. People like to call this the “short form”. It’s short!

The other is called a Continuing Disability Review. People like to call this the “long form.” It’s long!

Reviews usually happen 3 or 5 or 7 years. A different review cycle is set for each person. However, they are sometimes sent out late. Sometimes many years late.

About The Short Form

The Disability Update Report is a quick form that Social Security sends out to help them decide whether they are going to do a Continuing Disability Review for you this year.

The Short Form is not a medical review. It is just a little form they use to decide if they want to do a medical review. When you get a short form, Social Security does not contact your doctor or look at any of your medical records.

No one gets cut off disability because of a short form. The worst thing that can happen is they will follow up with a long form, and the best thing that can happen is they will just approve you. Usually, the best thing happens. 🙂

About The Long Form

After you get the short form, Social Security will either send you a long form or (most of the time) nothing more will happen and you will just go on with your life until next time you come up for review.

If you’d like to learn more about the long form, check out: Everything You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Reviews

Short Form Magic Trick

Social Security has put a system in place where most short forms are processed by a computer that will scan in the boxes on the form. This computer has the ability to automatically approve you, without ever being seen by a human!

Sample Form

Here’s a page where someone has posted a copy of his completed Disability Update Report. (Scroll down a bit to see the complete form).

As you can see, his answers are very quick, brief, and simple! Your answers don’t have to match his, but this gives you a good idea of how someone might approach a short form.

The Quick & Easy Review

The short form is a very simple form that only takes five minutes to complete. It is important to answer all questions honestly. According to the Social Security policy manual, there is a good chance the computer will automatically approve you if:

  • You are not working
  • You are not in school
  • Your condition has not improved (same or worse)
  • Your doctor said you cannot work or your doctor did not talk about working
  • You have three recent doctor’s appointments or three recent hospital visits
  • No remarks and nothing written in the margins
  • No attachments
  • The form is signed
  • All questions are answered
  • You do not have any other unresolved Social Security issues
  • Do not use this form to change your address

If you don’t have all the things above, there is a chance the computer will still approve you automatically, or there is a chance you will be sent a long form.

The Longer & Slower Review

If your condition has improved or you do not have recent doctor’s visits, there is a decent chance you will be sent a long form for more review.

If you are working or in school, there is a chance you will be sent a long form, but also a chance your short form will just pass without problems.

If you have issues with your short form, please read: How to Troubleshoot the Short Form

Before Filling Out the Form

Make a copy. This way if you check the wrong box of make a mistake, you will have a blank copy to work with.

Remarks and Attachments

Most disability advocates recommend that you do not include any remarks or attachments on your Short Form. If you just fill in the boxes, you can let the computer do its thing. The computer may be able to easily approve you!

If you include remarks or attachments, your form won’t go to the computer. It will go to a human who will have to read everything you wrote and make a decision. This may slow down the process and take a lot longer, but at the end of the day the decision will likely be the same either way.

Tell the Truth

It is important to answer honestly, especially about working. Social Security checks IRS records to see if people are working. They can also check bank accounts.

After Filling Out the Form

Before you send back your short form, make a copy for yourself.

What Happens Next

If everything goes perfectly, and the computer just immediately approves you… it’s still going to take about three months. If you included remarks or attachments it’s going to take about six months or longer. Be patient.

Don’t worry if it is taking a while, it doesn’t mean anything. If a lot of time passes, you can call and ask for an update. Sometimes paperwork gets lost.

Remember, you are not just waiting to find out if they are going to send you a long form. They cannot cut anyone off based on the short form.

How Do I Know if I am Approved?

If your review is approved, they will send you a bewildering letter that says: “We sent you a letter telling you we were going to review your case, however we do not need to review your case at this time.”

This means: “You are approved, but we don’t know how to write in clear English.”

The Evil 5% Rule

90% your short forms are easily approved

5% are selected for more review

5% of the time, even if your short form is perfect, your file will be randomly selected and they will send you a long form review to fill out. Don’t worry if this happens to you randomly. It does not mean anything about your case.

Be Prepared

You may not be sent a long form review, but there is a chance you will be.

Since you know this could happen, it’s very important to be prepared and plan ahead. Do not wait until you get the long form!!! Here’s how to make sure you are ready for the long form continuing disability review.

Anything else interesting here?

As a matter of fact, yes! Bet you didn’t know your form contains a secret code. You really do not need to know this, but if you are curious…  You can find out all about your secret code here.

If you would like to read some excruciating and impenetrable instructions on how the Short Form is processed, here you can find the policy manual for the short form.

What Do You Think? 

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

Updated May 2018. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

43 thoughts on “How to Complete a Disability Update Report (SSA-455-BK)”

  1. What happens if I made an error, and need to fix one of the dates for last appointment? Do I request new form or will that flag me, or do I try to erase the wrong date and re write and will that flag me? I have long term and always get the short form.

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  2. My primary code is Depression and secondary Anxiety with an “L” for seconds line third section and a number of 0000,which I was told is all very good. I have 2 questions. One, I miised the foirst mailer so it says Seocnd request at top. Do I send this back certified to cover myself or will it flag anything, and 2 on Question 5 each visit has 16 boxes for the reason of visits. Do I put just DEPRESSION on boxes all the way down or DEPRESSEDANXIETY which all fit in the 16 boxes and are have no spaces, or should I put Depression for 2 and Anxiety for one? I go every weeks actually for both but don’t want to complicate things or set of a flag.

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    1. Hi Pat,

      I think both of those replies look equally good, as long as both are true. They will see you are in regular mental health treatment and that is what is important. That is great that you are keeping up regular treatment.

      I’m sorry I don’t have an answer for your first question. In some situations certified mail is a really good idea, but I’m not certain if it would make a difference for a disability update report.

      I hope it goes well for you.

      Like

  3. Hi Pat,

    I think both of those replies look equally good, as long as both are true. They will see you are in regular mental health treatment and that is what is important. That is great that you are keeping up regular treatment.

    I’m sorry I don’t have an answer for your first question. In some situations certified mail is a really good idea, but I’m not certain if it would make a difference for a disability update report.

    I hope it goes well for you.

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  4. At what point do you inquire about the status of your disability update report? It’s been over three months since I sent in the short form. I don’t want to call attention to myself, but I am getting anxious. Thanks

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    1. Janet I don’t know if they will be able to give you a status update. If you want you can call and ask. I don’t see how you can cause any problems by calling. I hope it goes well for you.

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  5. Hello and thanks for your site. I put remarks on my 455 form. I went to my local office and they said, dont worry about it because SS will send second form in about 30 days. Would you wait for the second notice or just send in the one with remarks and bar codes? Do you know how long it takes to send second notice? Are you aware SS say that a human handles all mailers, according to what I am reading , I have nothing to worry about “.The fronts of most mailers are optically scanned and the data are entered into the electronic data file that is created for each scannable mailer.

    All mailers require some keying, including responses on the back of the form (questions 5 and 6) and relevant short remarks of 30 words or 200 characters or less. All keyed data becomes part of the data file for that mailer”

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    1. Hi Ken,

      Thanks for this info.

      My understanding is: someone may type in the initial info when the form arrives.

      If remarks are blank or less than 30 words, the form is then sent to a computer to decide.

      If there are attachments or more than 30 words, it is sent to a human to decide.

      Unless there is some kind of problem, the decision should be the same either way, the human decision will just take longer.

      If I were you, I would send it back by the deadline and not take the risk of waiting for a new form to be mailed. If you miss the second form, or the second form gets lost in the mail, that could cause a lot of problems.

      I hope it goes well for you.

      Like

    2. P.S. Most short forms pass without any problem. Putting remarks just makes things a little slower, so you need to be a bit patient, but it is totally fine to have a remark. 🙂

      Like

  6. Does hospitalized include ER visit ? Also , I had GI test under anesthesia (because I take certain meds) and so was admitted to the hospital , but I went home after it was over. Do I count that as hospitalized?

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  7. I’ve been on SSD for a little over three years, and in the process I took a couple of online classes. I recently received my Disability Update Report and made note of doing some vocational work (according to one of the questions). Does this raise a red flag to SS?

    Jensen T

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    1. Hi Jensen,

      The SSA policy that I have seen does not give exact specifics on what causes them to do a further review. Partly, it may different for each person depending on how their case is coded.

      If you do get a review, if you are in regular treatment and have good medical records, most reviews pass without a problem. If you don’t get a review, then that is even easier.

      I hope it goes well for you.

      Like

  8. Thank you for the great site. I am wondering how likely is it that someone will get two short forms in a row? Thank you for the help. 🙂

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    1. Hi KK, I have never seen a formula for what they send when. But it does seem like some people start out getting long forms and then get switched to short forms at some point.

      Like

  9. I am filling this out for my brother. He is working so I am confused by section 1 a. I printed out the current month and year in the first set of boxes under Work Ended per the instructions. Do I have to fill out sections 2 and 3 also with work began and work ended. He has been at the same job the entire time he has been disabled

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  10. I don’t have a doctor and as a result, I cannot answer question 3 or I woukd have trouble answering it. I need help with this. I can answer 1 and 2 since have not worked nor attended school since the two-year period starting in June 2016. Questions 5 and 6 I can answer since I have not seen a doctor since 2016; I have not been hospitalized or had surgery since June 2016.

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    1. Hi Mike,

      If you have not been to a doctor in the past two years, you will most likely be sent a long form review, no matter what you write on this form.

      Do you have the ability to start going to a doctor again now? Social Security will request your recent doctor’s records so this may be helpful for you.

      More information on communicate with social security if you have not been to the doctor: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/how-to-get-to-the-doctor-when-you-cant-get-to-the-doctor/

      There is more info on what happens during a review here: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/how-to-keep-up-good-medical-records-while-on-disability/

      I hope it goes well for you.

      Like

  11. Hello,

    I am on disability for bipolar and PTSD only.

    I see my psychiatrist every 3 months. I also see my regular doctor, PCP, for other medical stuff that has nothing to do with psychiatric needs. On the form, as you know, it says list your 3 most recent medical visits with in the last year. Should I only include my psychiatrist visits or should I include all? If I include all, I won’t be able to list my psychiatrist appointments on the forms because I have been to my PCP, 4 times in the last 3 months. I am worried they might think I haven’t seen my psychiatrist recently if I only include the very last 3 visits from my regular medical stuff. Make sense? I am thinking I should only list my psychiatrist appointments since that is what I am on disability for, right? Why would they care about the other doctor appointments? I’m confused on this. Thank you in advance.

    Like

    1. Hi Abby,

      I have never seen any specific rules addressing this point. It is an excellent question.

      I have seen people do it both ways and not have any problems as long as the three visits listed are recent.

      Like

      1. Thank you so much for speedy response. It is much appreciated. I will go with just listing the psychiatrist appointments then. One more question, it asks you to list “reasons for visits”. How do I answer that when it’s a psychiatrist appointment? I seen you answer a similar question down below, but I just want to be sure.

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  12. Hello. On question 5 – is it recommended to list therapy if that is one of the last 3 appointments or just show last 3 psychiatrist visits? Also what about the reasons for visits – is it better to use diagnostic type wording like bipolar/depression or a specific reason like medication management? Thanks!

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    1. I have not seen any recommendations either way. It makes sense to me to include therapy. Most people list diagnosis, but as far as I know both ways would be good.

      Like

  13. Hi quick question. Been disabled for 6 years, last Christmas(2017) I worked a very short time, about 6 weeks for a companies peak period. Worked very few hours & I did not go over the amount I can legally earn. I do not work now & it was too hard so I won’t do it again. Will my yes for question one on the short form cause the computer to send me long form? Is it possible the computer will still approve my continuation? Thanks for your time.

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  14. Thank you for providing all this great info. Dealing with an SSDI review is so nerve wracking. You’ve definitely helped to ease my mind a little, so…thanks again! Kim

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  15. One more question, how much time do we have to send the form back to them? I dont see a return by date on the form. Thank you so much.

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  16. I received my short form this week and I want to avoid the long form if any way possible. I suffer from depression and anxiety. I was able to work from home over the phone for about 8 months. Very min hours. I was let go because it was too stressful for me to keep up with the companies changing procedures. 1- do you think a job I no longer work will cause me to get the Long form. I do go see a psychologist every 3 months and take medication.
    I am now 4 months pregnant. 2- should I put the pregnancy down as one of my recent doctor’s appt or will that make it worse?
    3_lastly the codes on my form on the second line read 3/DTA/M/0052…..not sure what the DTA means? any advice would be grateful

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    1. I think you should just put down what is the truth. Seeking medical care for pregnancy will not hurt your application.

      I cannot know for sure how they will process your claim, but I have met many people who worked small amounts and did not get long forms.

      I hope it goes well for you.

      Like

  17. Hi.
    I just received the short form.. Question 3 asks about going back to work..
    Has it been discussed
    Dr said No
    Dr said yes
    Im a bit apprehensive because in a recent report for my disability insurance one of my Dr’s. said I can do sedentary work.. but this is being disputed based on my overall disability. If I check yes is it best to follow up with notes? and do I need to worry?
    Thank You

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    1. Sorry I do not have an exact answer. I think the best you can do is check whatever is true. It may not wind up being an issue (many people work part time while on disability.)

      If you wind up getting a long form, you could ask your doctor if they think you are capable of full time work (or work earning over $1,180 per month) if they do not think you can, you could ask for a short note confirming this – since this is one of the criteria for SSDI.

      I hope it goes well for you.

      Like

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