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 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. 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 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. If you’d like to learn more about the five points listed above, please take a look at: How to Please the Social Security Gods
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 the 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 assess whether you are now disabled based on all your old and new conditions.
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.
Tips 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. If you have not read your records, now would be a really good time to do this. If possible, you want full records with treatment notes (not what appears online and not visit summaries)
💮 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
💮 Make sure to 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.
💮 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.
There are two different reviews you can get. You may be sent one or both:
💮 This is a short form you are sent sometimes instead of getting a full review. If you get sent this, you’ll be happy. It only takes five minutes to fill out, and if it passes, you won’t get a review!
💮 This is a complete disability review.
Updated Feb 2018. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 💮