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 send you a full medical review or if they want to skip your review (most of the time they skip it!). It only takes five minutes to complete. 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 not a medical review. This review looks at your finances and living situation. It is used to decide how high your SSI check should be and if you are eligible for SSI. This is done over the phone. It is only for people on SSI (not SSDI).
How Often Do I Get Reviewed?
Financial reviews typically take place once per year.
Medical reviews are more complicated. How often will you be reviewed? Can reviews come late? Can reviews come early? Will I be reviewed forever? Find out: When Is My Next Social Security Disability Review?
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. They start by looking at the conditions you had last time they reviewed your case.
💮 If this is your first review, they look at the condition or conditions you were approved for.
💮 If you were reviewed in the past, but it was a short form (not a full medical review), they look at the condition or conditions you were approved for.
💮 If you have had a full medical review in the past, they look at any conditions you had that they found to be disabling at that time. If you want to know more about your last review, you can contact your local office and request a copy of the case file for your last continuing disability review.
Then they compare! They compare how severe those conditions were in the past to how severe they are now.
💮 If they find that your conditions are the same or similar and have not improved, your review will most likely pass without problems.
💮 If they find that your conditions are worse, your review will most likely pass without problems.
💮 If they find that your conditions have improved, then they will consider any other conditions you have developed and decide whether your improvement means you would now be able to work a full time job.
Do Small Changes Matter?
Social Security does not expect your condition to be exactly the same as it was years ago. They look to see that your general symptoms and functioning are similar to how they were before. Small changes are normal:
💮 It usually will be no problem if there have been small changes in your symptoms. For example, if one symptom is somewhat better, and a different symptom is somewhat worse, but your overall level of disability and functioning is the same.
💮 It usually will be no problem if your doctor has given you a new diagnosis that is similar to the last one. This is especially common for mental health. For example: One doctor might diagnose Bipolar, and then a new doctor might diagnose the same symptoms to be Borderline Personality Disorder. As long as person is still have severe psychiatric symptoms, that is what they will be looking for.
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 your disabling condition (unless your doctor has written that no treatment is possible)
💮 You are following your doctor’s treatment suggestions. (Your records don’t say “non-compliant.”)
💮 Your medical records indicate that you are still impaired or still having severe symptoms.
💮 Your medical records do not say this condition has “improved.”
If your condition has improved, it’s still possible to pass a review, if you can show that condition is still severe and disabling, or if you have developed other severe conditions.
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
Are Medical 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.
💮 Most reviews pass without problem if the medical records show that that person still has the same condition and that condition has not improved. For most conditions, they will also look to see that you are in regular treatment or regularly seeing a doctor.
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 may be helpful to to keep a written record of any disability accommodations that you got. Your school’s disability services office can assist you with this.
💮 Warning: If you have been in any kind of vocational rehabilitation or ticket to work program, Social Security may collect and read all files and case notes written by anyone from that program. This sometimes causes problems. Sometimes disabled people try to downplay their weaknesses and overplay their abilities when seeking work. Please make sure that everything you say to work programs is accurate and honest.
Having Good Doctor Visits
💮 What you say during doctor visits can be very important.
💮 Learn from the pros. (Tips from readers).
💮 A really great story that will help you understand way more about how conversations with your doctor can affect your records.
💮 This page is also for new applications. Some of these questions could also come up later. Why can’t you work? What activities do you do?
More Tips 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.
💮 Not always possible. Sometimes possible!
Choosing a Doctor
💮 Social Security has some special doctor rules called Acceptable Medical Source
💮 It be can easier to pass a review if you have at least one who doctor is an Acceptable Medical Source.
💮 If none of your doctors are an acceptable medical 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, and this doctor’s opinion may be given extra consideration.
💮 When visiting a new 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. If possible, 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
💮 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?
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