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How to Pass a Continuing Disability Review: Tips for a CDR

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published March 1, 2024
2 min read
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If you receive monthly Social Security disability benefit payments, you will need to routinely have a continuing disability review (CDR). This process allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to evaluate your ongoing eligibility for benefits. 

A CDR typically includes answering questions on a form about your disability and current treatment. A CDR is not as challenging or time-consuming as applying for disability benefits, but we’ll go over what to expect and offer tips for how to pass a continuing disability review.

What is a continuing disability review?

A continuing disability review (CDR) is a periodic review to evaluate eligibility for Social Security disability recipients. As part of the review, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients complete forms with their most recent medical history. The CDR will also evaluate a recipient’s capacity to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). 

There are two types of CDRs:

  1. Medical Continuing Disability Review (M-CDR). A medical CDR looks at your condition and the status of your impairment. If things have improved enough, the SSA might terminate your benefits. 

  2. Work Continuing Disability Review (W-CDR). If you are working, the SSA might do a Work CDR to evaluate if you exceed SGA, which could affect your eligibility and lead to a suspension of disability benefits.

What to expect with a CDR

The SSA will send instructions in the mail when it’s time for your first review. A CDR usually involves filling out a form, submitting your most recent medical records, and waiting for the SSA to review the information. 

If your medical records are insufficient, you may need to undergo a consultative exam with one of the SSA’s doctors. The entire process takes anywhere from a few months to a year until the SSA decides if your benefits will continue. 

Do most people pass a CDR?

Yes, more than 90% of recipients pass continuing disability reviews. It is much more difficult to get disability claims approved in the first place than it is to pass a CDR. 

How often does the SSA conduct CDRs?

The SSA conducts periodic reviews on a predetermined schedule. For many disability recipients, a CDR occurs every three years, but the timeline differs for different groups: 

  • Recipients under 50 have their cases reviewed more often than those over 50. 

  • Recipients in the Medical Improvement Expected (MIE) category might have CDRs more frequently than every three years. CDRs may start as soon as six to 18 months after you begin receiving payments. You’ll also have to fill out a long form and provide additional information about your disability update report. 

  • Recipients whose medical condition is not expected to improve will need a continuing disability review once every seven years. You’ll only need to fill out a short form when you need a CDR. 

Regardless of your situation, when the SSA lets you know that you’ve won disability benefits, they should also tell you when to expect your first medical review. 

What triggers a continuing disability review?

The SSA usually schedules CDRs at specific intervals — approximately every three years after you begin receiving benefits. You might receive a notification for a CDR if:

  • You engage in substantial gainful activity. If you start doing any type of work that earns you more than $1,550 per month (the 2024 limit), this might flag your case for the SSA to conduct a CDR.

  • Your health improves. The SSA might schedule a CDR if your condition is expected to improve or if you report an improvement in your health to your doctor.

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3 tips for passing a CDR

The best practices for passing a continuing disability review are similar to getting disability in the first place. You’re more likely to pass a CDR by following these tips: 

  1. Be responsive. Let the SSA know immediately if any non-medical information changes, such as your address. If the SSA contacts you for additional information about your application, respond as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

  2. Follow your medical treatment protocols. Comply with any of the treatments your doctors have recommended to show the SSA you’re doing everything in your power to help your condition improve. 

  3. Keep up-to-date medical records. See your providers frequently so your medical records are current. You should document the treatment you’re undergoing, too. This all serves as medical evidence that you must submit to help your case on a continuing disability review report. 

3 reasons you might fail a CDR

If your medical condition has improved, the SSA might decide to terminate your benefits. Here are three reasons you might “fail” a CDR and lose benefits:

  1. Your condition has improved. If your disability has improved enough that the SSA decides you can work, they will terminate your benefits. 

  2. You’re engaging in SGA. You will likely fail a CDR if you’re working at a substantial level (earning over $1,550 per month).

  3. You are not cooperating. If you have not been attending your medical appointments, or provided false information to the SSA, these could be grounds for failing a CDR.

If the SSA decides to terminate your disability benefits after your CDR review process, you have 60 days to appeal this decision. You must request in writing to continue receiving benefits within 10 days of receiving notice. If you continue to receive payments during the appeal, and the SSA ultimately determines you are no longer eligible, you will likely have to pay the money back for that period. 

Get help with your disability claim

Your disability lawyer can help you with every stage of the disability process, including a continuing disability review. A disability attorney can gather updated medical records, help you prepare for a concultative exam, and communicate with the SSA about your CDR report.

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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