How to Be Prepared for a Continuing Disability Review

Artwork: Robin Mead

Every so often, Social Security will conduct a medical review to see if you are still disabled.

This generally happens every 3 or 5 or 7 years. It is called a “Continuing Disability Review.”

Social Security has special policies that make passing a medical review easier than getting approved in the first place.

When you go through a review, they will first look at the condition you were approved for. In most cases, that is all they need to consider.

However, if your records indicate that your original condition has improved, then they will also consider any new other conditions you have developed.

According to the policies for medical reviews, Social Security will look at the following:

💮 Are you in regular medical treatment?

💮 Are you being treated for the condition you were approved for?

💮 Are you following your doctor’s treatment suggestions?

💮 Is your condition still severe and are you unable to work full time?

💮 Do your medical records say your condition has “improved”?

💮 Once again, this is for the condition you were approved for. If you were approved for Bipolar, and later you got cancer, it does not matter if they cancer improved.

How Are Reviews Different Than New Applications?

💮 When you first applied, you needed to prove that you were disabled. This is difficult to do and can take many years.

💮 When you are reviewed, you do not need to prove you are disabled all over again! They already know you are disabled. You just need medical records showing that you still have the same condition and that condition has not improved. They will also look to see that you are in regular treatment.

💮 If your original condition has improved, or if something in your records indicates that it may have improved, then you are in a different situation. At that point, they will also consider if you have developed any other conditions and whether you are now disabled based on all your old and new conditions.

If You are Working or in a Work Program

💮 If you are using a Vocational Rehabilitation program or a Ticket to Work program or a job training program. Social Security may check to see if the records from these programs include anything that show that your condition has improved

💮 If you have gone back to work, Social Security may look to see if the type of work you are doing indicates that your condition has improved. (i.e. When John was approved, his records said he could not lift more than five pounds. Now John has a job that involves lifting ten pounds. Social Security may consider that John’s condition has improved.)

💮  Please take a look at some of the Social Security rules and regs around working that may be helpful to know.

Tips for Disability Reviews

Disability Update Report

💮  This is a short form you are sent sometimes instead of getting a full review.

Adult Function Form / Activities of Daily Living

💮  If you are given a full review, you may be sent this form.

Consultative Exam / Social Security Doctor

💮  If you are give a full review, you may be sent for a visit with a Social Security doctor.

Tips for Medical Records

See The Right Kind of Doctor

💮  Social Security would like you to see an MD or another kind of acceptable medical source.

Talk to Your Doc

💮 What is your doctor’s medical opinion? Do they think you are disabled? Do they  understand how severe your symptoms are? You won’t know if you don’t ask.

Have Great Doctor Visits

💮 Read this and burn it into (what’s left of) your memory.

How to Please the Social Security Gods

💮 Five doctor rules you might not know

Tips from the Pros

💮 Reader’s tips on how to have good medical records

Read Your Medical Records

💮 It’s a good idea to do this from time to time, just to make sure that what your doctor is saying to you is the same as what they are writing about you. Make sure to read complete records with treatment notes, if possible. Don’t just read what you see online or what you are handed after an office visit.

Updated June 2017. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 💮

10 thoughts on “How to Be Prepared for a Continuing Disability Review”

  1. I’m currently avoiding reviews by maintaining my status as a client of a local vocational organization. However, to remain a client I have to continue to be in school. So far it’s been going OK, but my health is deteriorating again. I do not know if I will stay well enough to complete my studies. If I have to drop out, I am liable to receive a review.
    Unfortunately, I was approved for Conversion Disorder. Finally, over two years after I applied, I have an accurate diagnosis. I am not being treated for conversion disorder, though I have weekly therapy for PTSD, GAD, and depression (secondary on my application). Instead, it turns out I have a mast cell disease, which was never mentioned on my application as I hadn’t even heard of the disease yet.
    Is there a way to rectify the incorrect diagnosis? Will doing so put my SSDI and SSI in jeopardy?


  2. Hi lia,

    Excellent questions.

    I think you are doing the right thing by staying in regular treatment and that will help with your next review.

    I cannot say exactly how Social Security will view your review, but I am wondering if they may have considered your conversion disorder to fall under the category of mental health? Since you are still in treatment for mental health that would be good. 🙂

    It might be helpful to give them a call and see if they can look in the computer to see what exactly they have you listed as being approved for.

    Bottom line: the best thing to do is just keep up good, accurate medical records. social security will also request and review your file from the vocational program so you would like those records to also be an accurate reflection of your disability.

    Is your therapist a psychologist or psychiatrist? That would also help.

    hope it goes great ❤


  3. Someone referred me to your site. I’m so glad they did!

    My first application was approved in late 2013. (Yeah I know. A miracle, right?) I still have most of my conditions but I’ve improved some. I lost some weight but am still considered morbidly obese. The improvements I have made haven’t made much of an impact. I have a TTW open. I found a full time job but had to go part time for health reasons; my diagnosis of fibromyalgia in early 2015.

    I live in fear of losing my benefits. I appear to have improved but fibromyalgia had rendered those improvements meaningless. Any advice you might be able to give me would be much appreciated.


    1. Thanks for writing. Do you know what conditions you were approved for? As far as I know, Social Security does not have a listing for obesity, you may have been approved for a condition or impairment related to the obesity. If you are not sure, it might be helpful to call and ask.

      That is great that you are able to work and trying to work.

      What I have seen from others is: TTW is well-designed for people who are trying to work full time and transition off their benefits, but it is not an ideal program for people who continue to be disabled and need stay on benefits. Do you feel that you are working enough hours to be able to continue to stay in the TTW program?

      If you feel that your condition has improved but your fibro is disabling, it may be helpful to start seeing a rheumatologist, and to talk to your rheumy about this so you can learn what they think about your disability application.

      A few of the rules and reg around working while on disability. Hope this helps. ❤


  4. I am currently in the mist of a ling form cdr I have been seeing doctors very regular over the years. I know one doctor is very supportive of my condition and feels I cannot work. My question to you is asking for copies of my medical records… I am very Leary to do that because I do not want my doctors to think I am checking to be sure they will support my disability. I fear by asking to have copies or to read them may make them feel I am checking up to be sure they will put whats needed to stay on ssdi. Make sense??


  5. Thank you so much, Sleepygirl, for posting this information. SSDI Review- the concept just scares the hell out of me. I just went through first step- the one sheet form with six questions that determines whether they do a full review. It says no other information is necessary other than the one sheet, but I’m trying to b e proactive this time. I’m in for treatment resistant mood disorder/Bipolar Mixed state, so I asked my therapist and my psychiatrist, both of whom I see weekly, to give me 1-2 paragraphs on letterhead giving a high level review of my condition, changes in condition, and working. I sold it to them as the first paragraph of what they’ll need to write if review goes forward, and possibly cutting off the review before it starts. Mailed about 2 weeks ago and haven’t heard anything back yet. If any are interested in this strategy’s outcome, I’ll cover it in when I get a response (the site should be up by 20JULY).

    I wanted to note that SS puts everyone on a 1, 3, 5, or 7 year review cycle. If you think you aren’t on such, it is probably due to the budget cuts to Social Security. They cannot keep enough staff on to do the reviews according to the schedule they set. I’m on a 3 year cycle (which is the longest I think they let anyone with psychiatric disability go without review), and I got the letter referenced above at about 4.5 years.

    I also wanted to note for people that the reviews for SSDI and SSI could be looking at very different things than other social services you are in. My mix of Federal, State, and County support is all looking at different criteria, and sometimes they have a bit of conflict. For instance, to qualify for my State’s medicaid I am in a program called Employed Individuals with Disabilities. It requires work, and while the stated minimum is 4 hours a month, if you work that little the case managers will try to get you thrown off the program. Without this program my meds would be about $10k more per year, so I kind of need it. However the work I do to qualify for that program likely flags me for SSID issues and such. I know my last review in spring 2013 ended up with my mom, my psychiatrist, and my therapist submitting in total more than 1.5 inches of paper and a session with a SocSec Psychiatrist for outside assessment (I was undergoing ECT at the time so don’t remember much, but I have the submissions in my files).

    Any who, just found you on Twitter and wanted to say hey, great articles, I appreciate what you are doing writing here.



  6. I was approved for SSA 2 yrs ago for hairy cell leukemia. My cancer is not active right now. My medical review just came up. I have new issues like neuropathy from my chemotherapy. Also they found a aneurysm of 4.8cm. How do I present these new problems! Heard they would only look at the first problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As far as I know, they will start out by looking at your original condition. If they find that condition has improved, then they will also consider your other conditions. If you can provide any medical records about the new conditions, that may help.

    They will also consider if your cancer treatment is causing you symptoms. I met someone else in the same situation and his medical review passed based on the after effects of treatment.

    If you are concerned, you could ask your doctor to write a letter for you detailing they ways that you are currently disabled, then enclose the letter when you return the review paperwork.

    Some info on how to get a good letter from your doc, plus sample letters.


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