The Social Security Disability (SSD) process has many parts. It begins with the application for disability benefits. This can be done with the online application or in person at a Social Security office. If you have a very serious medical illness or other clearly disabling condition and you have recent medical documentation that supports your claim, you may receive your SSD benefits within a relatively short time.
Many individuals who apply for SSDI find the process is more complex and slower, and they may wait significant time periods, especially if they must ask for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. The wait for that hearing can be more than a year.
When you finally have your claim approved, you may believe that that ends your involvement with the process and you will receive SSD benefits until you reach full retirement age. In fact, the Social Security Administration is required to review disability recipients periodically after their approval, to ensure that they still qualify for benefits.
This process is known as "continuing disability review" (CDR). How often it occurs depends on the medical condition that caused your disability. An important factor is whether you are expected to improve. For most beneficiaries, a review is likely to be performed every three years, although for some conditions it could be up to seven years.
If you are likely to improve, your condition may be reviewed in less than three years. For some back injuries or other musculoskeletal conditions, it is possible that with time away from work, your body will recover.
On the other hand, if you suffer from a condition such as chronic emphysema or were disabled due to the loss of one or more of your limbs, you are unlikely to improve. In this case, your reviews may not be as frequent.
The CDRs, like much of the SSD process, are facing a backlog. The CDR process is similar to the initial claims determination, and the amount of information requested will depend on your disability and the likelihood of your condition improving with time.
Source: ssa.gov, "What You Need To Know: Reviewing Your Disability," SSA Publication No. 05-10068, January 2005