What Is A Continuing Disability Review?

Has your condition progressed? Does it still affect your ability to work? The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews disability cases every so many years.  

A Social Security continuing disability review, or CDR, checks to see if your condition has improved and if you still meet the requirements for benefits.

The SSA CDR Process

When it’s time for a disability review, the SSA will send you a letter by mail to notify you it is looking into your case. The SSA will send you one of two forms, so you can provide details about your condition and activities. 

Here are the two forms to look for: 

  1. The Disability Update Report, or “short form,” is most often sent to those with conditions that are not expected to improve. It asks about your health, doctor’s visits and more. After sending in this form, you should hear back within one to three months. Most people who receive this form won’t have to provide any other information to continue receiving their benefits.
  2. If you receive a Continuing Disability Review Report, also known as “the long form,” it means that the SSA will be performing a full medical CDR. The long form report is typically sent to those with conditions that are likely to improve. It asks more extensive questions about your condition, work history, daily activities and doctor’s visits. How long does a CDR take? A full continuing disability review takes anywhere from three to five months, as the SSA will review your medical records.

You could also receive the long form if your answers on the short form draw red flags. If you have to complete both forms, you will likely wait even longer to hear back from the SSA. It could take five or six months for you to know about any changes in your disability status.

Providing Medical Evidence

As you complete the Continuing Disability Review Report, the SSA will look at your medical records from the last 12 months. While the SSA asks that you provide what records you do have, it will also request records from the doctors, hospitals and treatment centers you’ve provided.

If the SSA feels like your medical evidence conflicts or isn’t enough, it could request that you attend a consultative exam provided by an SSA-approved doctor at no cost to you. 


During a medical CDR, the SSA will also perform redeterminations to see if you still meet other requirements for your benefit. 

For example, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits have requirements for income, resources and living arrangements. The SSA will review your current statuses, as well as that of your parent(s) or spouse, to ensure you are still eligible for benefits.

Redeterminations can be completed by mail, over the phone or in person. You have 30 days to respond and make an appointment or complete the finished form. If you don’t respond within the time frame, your benefit may stop.

How Often Is Disability Reviewed?

SSA disability reviews shouldn’t be a surprise. Everyone, regardless of their condition, has to have a medical review at some point. 

How often does the SSA review disability cases? For most adults, your case will be reviewed every three to seven years. Your time frame depends upon the severity of your disability. 

The SSA divides cases into three categories: 

  • Medical improvement possible. If improvement for your condition is possible, then the SSA will review your case every three years. 
  • Medical improvement expected. If your condition is expected to improve, you will be reviewed at least once every three years—if not more. You could be reviewed even six to 18 months after confirming your disability.
  • Medical improvement not expected. Your condition may not be expected to improve. In this case, the SSA will only review your case every five to seven years. Permanent conditions, like blindness, Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy, may only be reviewed every seven years. 

As we age, our medical conditions are less likely to improve. Social Security disability reviews are less frequent after age 50.

CDR frequency for children is different. Newborns with low birth weights may be reviewed within one year for signs of medical improvement. All children have their cases reviewed by adult standards when they turn 18. 

What Can Trigger A CDR?

Most cases are scheduled to be reviewed regularly. However, there are scenarios which could trigger a review.

The SSA may initiate a review if:

  • You return to work.
  • You tell the SSA your condition has improved. 
  • Medical evidence suggests you’ve improved. 
  • You aren’t following treatments. 
  • Doctors discover a new treatment for your condition. 

Can You Lose Your Disability Benefits?

Your disability benefit will stop once your condition improves and you are able to work again. The SSA uses medical evidence to determine when (if ever) you no longer need your benefit. 

The only times your benefit could stop without evidence of medical improvement are if you begin earning more than $1,200 a month, you have training so you can work again, or there’s a new method for determining the severity of your condition. 

Your benefit could also stop if you don’t respond to SSA requests for your information. 

Are you ready to file for disability? Want to know more about continuing disability reviews?

Contact Reynolds & Gold. We will help you obtain social security benefits. 

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