SSA proposes SSDI rule change: What does this mean for beneficiaries?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced a proposed change to the process it uses to conduct continuing disability reviews (CDRs). The agency uses these reviews to determine whether or not a beneficiary continues to qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit program.

The purpose of the review is often to ensure the beneficiary is unable to work. Although checking in may seem reasonable, it is important to note the CDR comes at a high cost to the beneficiary as they generally require a large amount of paperwork and a physical exam.

How often does the SSA conduct CDRs?

The Social Security Act requires the SSA to conduct these CDRs at least once every 3 years. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, in some situations the SSA can waive the CDR requirement or in others the agency may have determined the disability was permanent.

What would change?

The SSA states the proposal includes two main changes:

1) Addition of a recipient category to the government's current list.

2) Changes to the frequency the agency conducts CDRs.

The first change effects the government's classification system. The SSA has proposed three different categories with different frequency of reviews. The agency will review the first every 6-18 months; the second every 3 years; and the third every 5-7 years. SSA's proposal calls on the most frequent reviews for those individuals who receive benefits and are in the latter part (people who are 50-65 years old) of their careers and/or individuals who suffer from mental health impairments and cancer.

Currently individuals wait between 2-27 months to receive disability benefits. The SSA has also called to decrease this wait time and encouraged the completion of a review 6 months after the person receives their awarded benefits.

Does this sound familiar?

The government enacted a similar plan in the early 1980s. That attempted resulted in the termination of over 490,000 benefits. Experts estimate the current proposal may have a similar impact and could affect 4.4 million individuals. The SSA may choose to cut people off of their benefits for not completing the lengthy paperwork in a timely fashion, or not seeking medical care on a regular basis. Gathering medical records, arranging transportation to go to doctors frequently and taking the time to see specialists can be a very expensive process for people who are already barely surviving on disability.

The comment period for this proposed rule ended on January 21, 2020. It is estimated to cost $1.8 billion dollars. We will provide updates on the progression of this bill as they become available.