Every so often, Social Security will contact you to conduct a review.
There are three kinds of reviews you may get:
Disability Update Report – This is a quick, short form they send to some people. They use this form to decide if they want to do a Continuing Disability Review. It only takes five minutes. It is often called the “short form.”
Continuing Disability Review – This is a full medical review. They will look at your medical records to decide if you are still disabled. It is often called the “long form.”
SSI Financial Redetermination – This is done over the phone. It is only for people on SSI (not SSDI). This is not a medical review. This review looks at your finances to decide how high your SSI check should be and if you are eligible for SSI.
How Often Do I Get Reviewed?
Disability reviews generally happens every 3 or 5 or 7 years. The review cycle is different for each person, and reviews are sometimes late. Sometimes years late.
If you don’t know what your review cycle is, you can call Social Security and ask. If you have gotten a short form Disability Update Report, you can also check out your secret code that will tell you your review cycle.
SSI financial reviews are totally different and happen on their own magical and mysterious timeline. It is often once a year, but seems to vary quite a bit by state.
Will I Be Reviewed Forever?
Once you reach full retirement age you will no longer get disability reviews. Your monthly check will just continue without change. If you are on SSI, you will still have financial reviews.
Many readers report that as they got close to retirement age their reviews became infrequent or stopped.
What Happens During a Medical Review?
Social Security has special policies that make passing a disability 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. If you still have that condition, you are in regular treatment, and your condition has not improved, in cases a review will pass with no problems.
However, if your records indicate that your original condition has improved, then they may to do a more detailed review of all your records, similar to when you first applied. At that point, they will also consider any new other conditions you have developed.
What Do They Look for in My Medical Records?
According to the policies for medical reviews, Social Security will look for the following:
💮 You are seeing a doctor regularly (whatever amount your doctor recommends)
💮 You are being treated for the condition you were approved for
💮 You are following your doctor’s treatment suggestions. Your records don’t say “non-compliant.”
💮 Your medical records say that you are still impaired or still having symptoms. (Ideally, they will indicate if your symptoms are severe).
💮 Your medical records do not say this condition has “improved”
There are some exceptions to these rules. For example, some people have reasons why they cannot stay on medications prescribed by their doctor. Learn more about this here: How to Please the Social Security Gods
How Are Disability 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 Medical Condition Has Improved
💮 If your condition has improved somewhat, but your records show that it is still severe and disabling, Social Security should still consider you disabled.
💮 If your original condition is no longer severe, Social Security will move on to considering any other diagnosis or condition you may have developed. It is more difficult, but still possible, to get approved this way. It will help if you can supply as much strong documentation as possible. Here’s a page on starting a new application. Even though you are not starting a new application, everything on this page can also help your review of new medical conditions: How to Be a Superhero
If You are Working, in School, or in a Work Program
💮 Please take a look at some of the Social Security rules and regs around working that may be helpful to know.
💮 Also check out: How to Handle Disability Reviews While Working
💮 If you are in school, it’s a good idea to keep a written record of any disability accommodations that you got. Your school’s disability services office can assist you with this.
💮 If you have been in any kind of vocational rehabilitation or ticket to work program, they may collect and read the files from that program, so please make sure that everything you say (to anyone there at any point) is accurate and honest.
Preparing for Disability Reviews
💮 It will be a huge help if the records from your doctor’s visits all accurately reflect your condition. Please read.
💮 Great tips and suggestions from readers
💮 Social Security will look to see if your records show that your condition has or has not improved. It may be helpful to see for yourself what your records say.
💮 If you think that last section is not that important, read this and you will instantly change your mind.
Choosing a Doctor
💮 Social Security has some special doctor rules called Acceptable Medical Source
💮 It is much easier to pass a review if your doctor is an Acceptable Medical Source.
💮 If your doctor is not an acceptable source, it is still possible to pass a review, but they will usually send you to be evaluated by a Social Security doctor before any decision gets made.
💮 If you have more than one doctor, it is OK if one is an acceptable source and one isn’t. It helps if you have good medical records from the one who is.
💮 The acceptable medical source rules changed in 2017. You will need to follow the rules based on when you first applied. See link above.
💮 When choosing a doctor it is a really (really!) good idea to collect and read their treatment notes so you can see if this doctor is able to accurately record your condition.
Tips for Avoiding Trouble
💮 If possible, keep copies of all your own medical records. Doctor’s offices will not keep your records forever and sometimes a practice can move or close or purge old files. Some people lose their records this way.
💮 Don’t rely on online records or visit summaries. Request your full records with all treatment notes.
💮 Ask your doctor her plans for retirement or relocation. This will give you time to plan ahead so you can find a good new doctor and don’t have a gap in treatment (Social Security will look to see that you are in regular treatment).
💮 If you move, it is super important to give Social Security your new address and confirm that it is updated in their system. If you come up for disability review and the paperwork is sent to the wrong address, you could get cut off and it may take months to get your check started again.
💮 It is a good idea to check your mail regularly, or ask someone to check it for you. If there is a problem with your review, you may be given a very limited time to respond.
💮 If you are homebound and have difficulty walking to your mailbox, here is an idea: Victoria Gets Mail Delivered to Her Doorstep
There are two different reviews you can get. You may be sent one or both:
Most reviews are approved without problem. If your review is not approved, don’t panic. You can appeal and most appeals are successful: How to Appeal a Continuing Disability Review
Success story: Wisteria Gets Her Disability Benefits Back
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: