Social Security Disability Review After Age 50 and 60
Winning approval of your Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) claim is a huge accomplishment for many individuals and families who depend on the benefits to meet daily expenses that their physical or mental impairment prevents them from paying from their own earnings. But once you are approved for those SSD benefits, the law requires the Social Security Administration to conduct Continuing Disability Reviews or CDRs.
MJ Ellis Disability Law Office is committed to keeping you informed about all aspects of your Social Security Disability claim. This blog post explains what Continuing Disability Reviews are, how often your case might be scheduled for a CDR, and how SSD recipients who are aged 50 to 60 are much more likely to successfully pass those reviews than someone younger might be.
What is a Continuing Disability Review (CDR)?
Qualifying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit requires a person to have “a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that lasts or is expected to last 12 months (or result in death) that prevents the person from performing substantial gainful activities.”
But, as you might expect, a person may clearly qualify for SSD benefits by suffering an illness or injury that disables them for two or three years. Over time, some people improve with treatment, rehabilitative therapy, or job retraining to a point at which they may be able to return to work. If their disabling impairment improves to a condition allowing them to resume “substantial gainful activities,” (meaning earn more than $1,350 per month by 2022’s rule), then they are no longer eligible to receive SSD benefits from Social Security.
Congress requires these periodic disability reviews to ensure that those who have recovered or improved and are able to perform some type of work will no longer receive valuable benefits from a dwindling trust fund from which benefits get paid.
When Will My SSD Claim Be Subject to a Continuing Disability Review (CDR)?
Because millions of Americans have active SSD claims and are receiving disability benefits for a wide range of impairments, it is impractical to think the Social Security Administration (SSA) could review every person’s case every year.
Rather than wasting valuable agency resources conducting CDR in every case, the government adopted a system of assigning each qualified impairment that a claim might be based on into 3 medical improvement categories.
Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) with Older SSD Claimants
The chief motivation to conduct CDRs is to discover cases in which an SSD recipient’s condition no longer prevents them from resuming substantial gainful activities (work).
But these judgments often involve an assessment of Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). RFC is an analysis of each claimant based on their prior work, what new type of light work they might be able to perform, their education, experience, ability to be retrained, and their age. When a case goes through a CDR with a 35-year-old claimant, investing in retraining the person with new skills they might use to return to the workforce could make sense. With an older claimant, 50, 55, or 60 years old, retraining or encouraging an attempt to begin a new occupation makes much less sense and is not encouraged.
The circumstances combine to make an older worker’s chance of being approved for continued benefits after a CDR much more probable.
Medical Improvement Categories
The 3 categories created for purposes of scheduling efficient disability reviews are based on the likelihood a person with a particular disability is going to improve substantially enough to resume working. The less probable a claimant’s condition is to improve, the less frequently the CDR will be scheduled. The theory is that frequent reviews of a case with an improbable recovery is a poor use of agency resources. Focusing more CDR’s in cases where the claimant’s condition is likely to improve will yield more savings to the government by discovering more claims that no longer meet the “disability” definition the SSA applies. The category into which an impairment is placed is informed by the current state of medical knowledge.
Category 1. Medical Improvement Expected (MIE)
Cases assigned to this category are those most likely to see improvement over time as they respond to treatment. Examples include soft tissue injuries and some cancers with good remission chances with therapies like bone marrow transplants. Orthopedic injuries requiring surgical intervention could also fit this category as the claimant could experience significant improvement after a long period of rehabilitation. While the initial impairment clearly qualifies, a period of remission could improve the patient’s condition enough to allow them to return to some work.
These MIE cases are scheduled for review no more frequently than every 6 months but no longer than 18 months.
Category 2. Medical Improvement Possible (MIP)
Cases in the Medical Improvement Possible category are not expected to improve but, with time, improvement is possible. Because of this potential for significant improvement, unlikely though it may be, MIP category cases are scheduled for review once in 3 years.
Category 3. Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE)
The final category covers those cases of severe disability or impairments that experience and medical practice suggest are unlikely to improve and may even worsen over time. Because these cases are least likely to reveal a claim that is no longer severe enough to qualify for SSD benefits, they are scheduled for Continuing Disability Review no more frequently than every 5 years but no less often than 7 years.