Social security disability benefits are in place to help those who can’t work because of a medical condition. While they are intended to be helpful to those who need them most, they can be difficult to understand.
How do you navigate the eligibility process, how often are you reviewed, and what do those reviews look like? We’ve outlined everything you need to know about social security disability reviews and eligibility, especially for those over 50 years old.
A social security disability review, or a continuing disability review (CDR), is a review conducted by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make sure the people receiving Social Security (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income disability (SSI) benefits are still entitled to those benefits. It is a periodic, routine review of your medical impairment(s) to ensure you still have a disabling condition.
Generally, it is easier to qualify for SSDI at the age of 50. At 50, the SSA believes it is more challenging to be retrained for a new job, allowing older folks with a condition that keeps them from doing their current job to qualify for benefits easier.
The SSA uses a five-step evaluation process to determine if someone is eligible for SSDI. They evaluate your case based on your application, along with information sent by your doctor and other medical professionals who have treated you. A case takes three to five months to be processed.
These are the questions the SSA considers to evaluate eligibility:
If you are currently working and your monthly earnings average more than a certain amount, you will not be deemed disabled. The monthly earnings maximum — called “substantial gainful activity” — changes every year and can be found in the SSA’s annual update. If you aren’t working or make less than monthly earnings average, the SSA moves on to the next question.
To be deemed disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do what the SSA calls basic work activities. These activities include lifting, standing, walking, sitting and remembering. Your medical condition must impact you for at least 12 months. If the SSA considers your medical condition “severe,” they will move on to the next question.
The SSA listing of impairments describes medical conditions that it considers severe enough to prevent gainful activity, regardless of the applicant’s age, education or work experience. Experts have specified the objective medical findings needed to satisfy the criteria of each listing. If your condition meets or medically equals the criteria of a listing according to the information provided by your medical care providers, the SSA will determine that you have a qualifying disability right then and there.
If your condition does not meet or medically equal the criteria of a listing, the SSA will move on to the next question.
Here, the SSA determines whether or not your medical condition prevents you from performing any of your past work. If it doesn’t, it will be determined you do not have a qualifying disability. If it does, the SSA will move on to the next question.
If your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you’ve done in the past, the SSA will decide if there is other work you can do despite your condition. The agency considers your age, education, past work experience and skills. If you can do other work, you don’t have a qualifying disability. If you can’t do other work, you will be deemed disabled.
How often social security disability reviews your case depends on whether or not your condition is expected to improve:
Your social security disability review can take anywhere from one month to six months, depending on which form you receive in the mail from the SSA.