If I get disability, will they look at my case later?

Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income disability (SSI) are not guaranteed to last forever. Logically, Social Security has to evaluate the status of a disability beneficiary periodically to determine if their medical and/or mental condition has improved.

So how does Social Security accomplish these periodic disability reviews? When an individual is approved for disability benefits in either disability program (SSI or SSD), their disability claim has a disability diary date set up at the same time. Most diary dates are either three years, or seven years, depending on an individual's age and their likelihood of medical improvement.

If Social Security feels an individual has a chance of medical improvement, or if the individual is younger, their disability claims will most likely have diary dates of three years. And if the individual has an impairment that has very little chance of improvement, their case may receive what is known as a "permanent diary date" of seven years.

In the past, Social Security used to give three year diary dates to younger individuals no matter what the likelihood of medical improvement simply because they were young. Fortunately, Social Security has, in recent years, established more permanent diary dates for younger individuals who suffer from conditions that are not likely to ever medically improve. Perhaps they figured out that it just was not cost effective to evaluate individuals every three years when they had no chance of medical improvement.

Continuing disability reviews are most often triggered by medical diary dates; however disability claims can be reviewed for reasons other than a medical diary date. Social Security reviews all work activity to determine if an individual has performed work activity that can be counted as trial work months, extended period of eligibility months, or even termination months.

The ability to perform substantial work activity is an integral part of all disability eligibility determinations including continuing disability reviews (CDRs).

Each year, Social Security sets a monthly earnings amount that they consider to be SGA (substantial gainful activity), and if a person performs SGA work they may have their disability suspended or eventually even terminated.

Social Security offers many ways to try to work while being disabled, so if a person is thinking of returning to work they should speak to a claims representative so that they understand how work activity could affect their disability benefit eligibility.

I would like to mention if an individual receives SSI disability, their claims would also be periodically reviewed for living arrangements, income, and resources. Since SSI is a need-based disability program, an individual can actually be considered medically disabled, but, yet, still be denied disability benefits for any months that they do not meet the program's income and resource limits.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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