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Advocates for Disabled Critical of Proposed SSDI and SSI Rule Change

Published on February 12th, 2020 by Web Master

The Social Security Administration (SSA) follows its own regulations that require periodic review of approved SSDI and SSI claims to determine whether benefit recipients are no longer disabled because of medical improvement (MI) – and therefore no longer eligible to receive benefits. The SSA published a notice in November 2019 proposing a regulatory change that would add a new category of recipients subject to “continuing disability review” (CDR) every two years.

SSA’s reasoning

In its notice of proposed rulemaking, SSA states that its goal is to “identify [medical improvement] at its earliest point through the CDR process.” The agency goes on to say when MI is established “at its earliest point, beneficiaries … can make plans for their return to the labor force within a shorter period of time.” It also says that there “may be positive employment effects as a result of these proposed rules, although we cannot currently quantify them.”

Proposal raises concerns

Critics fear that the particular claimants who would be subject to review under this proposal would be unlikely to have improved to the point of being able to work but would be at risk of losing benefits because of the difficulty in complying with the agency’s requirements in conducting the review. This would result in the SSA terminating many in this group not because of true medical improvement, but rather because the review process would be too difficult for them to complete.

The SSA approved the claims of this group of “step five” beneficiaries largely because of older age, few job skills, little or no education, and inability to return to previous work or adjust to new kinds of work – in addition to the limitations their severe medical impairments cause.

CDR diaries

Currently, there are three CDR categories, called diaries. Within each, the frequency of case review depends on the kind of impairment and likelihood of improvement:

  • MIE: Medical improvement expected – review every six to 18 months
  • MIP: Medical improvement possible – review at least once every three years
  • MINE: Medical improvement not expected – review at least once every seven years, but not more than once every five years (proposed rule change would change this to at least once every six years)

SSA proposes to add a fourth CDR diary called medical improvement likely (MIL), subject to review every two years.

This proposal is very concerning. As reported by HuffPost.com, when the SSA under the Reagan administration terminated almost a half-million people from their disability benefits, some even committed suicide. Almost half of those terminations were reversed on appeal, but many considered the SSA’s actions scandalous for its treatment of disabled people.

SSA will receive public comments on the proposed rule changes only until Jan. 17, 2020. As of this writing on Jan. 15, there were more than 37,000 comments posted.

Anyone who receives a CDR notice should speak with an attorney to be sure they comply with the SSA’s review requirements and protect their benefits. If an SSDI or SSI recipient receives a notice of benefit termination, the claimant may appeal. Contact a lawyer for help right away so as not to miss any deadlines.

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