How Do Job Training Programs Affect Continuing Disability Reviews
Posted Feb 23 2009 10:15pm
In my practice I do not see very many continuing disability review (CDR) cases. If you are not familiar with this term, a "continuing disability review" involves a review by Social Security as to whether an approved claimant remains disabled. For example, there are some medical conditions that can and do improve over time and with treatment. I have been involved in many cases - especially those in which the claimant is in his 20's or 30's - when the judge specifically includes in his decision that a particular claimant should be reviewed in 1 year, or perhaps 3 years.
In theory, every Social Security disability case will be subject to a CDR. In reality, because of the current backlog, I rarely hear from my clients that their cases are being reviewed. The few cases that do seem to end up in a CDR typically involve younger claimants.
I am not usually called upon to handle CDR cases because a CDR representation does not involve past due benefits, and therefore cannot be handled under a contingency contract. Very few of my clients have the funds available to pay a lawyer for representation. A CDR hearing is very much like a disability determination hearing, involving medical record collection and submission, and representation at a hearing and often a CDR representation takes as much or more time than a disability determination.
Although CDR's are still somewhat rare because of the current backlog in disability determination cases, Social Security still conducts continuing disability reviews on some cases. Here is an email that I received from a blog reader regarding such a review:
I am 21 yrs. old, have been on SSI 2 yrs. for major depression and social anxiety disorder, and am expecting a CDR in december. My condition has not changed much from when I was approved. I want to go to college or JobCorps in the next few months(program lasts 2-3 yrs.), but I worry if I do well in a program like that, social security will consider me "signaficantly improved" at the CDR and cut me off. What does SSI consider "signaficantly improved" in regards to mental illness? I want to work and going to school will help me do that.Will I be penalized for trying to work out my issues (and succeeding)?
Here is my response: I am thinking that you are a prime candidate for continuing disability reviews over the next several years. You are obviously very young to fall within the disability process and your impairment - a form of mental illness - often triggers disability reviews. Hopefully, your treating psychiatrist will find the right combination of drugs that will allow you to return to the workforce.
"Significantly improved" means that your capacity to function in a work environment has been restored. Remember, Social Security defines work capacity in terms of your ability to get through an 8 hour workday, 5 days a week. You would no longer be considered disabled if you could perform a simple, unskilled "warm body" type of job, such as serving as a textile inspector, a circuit board assembler, or a surveillance system monitor. It does not matter that you would not earn very much at one of these kinds of jobs or that there is no such job near where you live. The only question - could you perform one of these simple, unskilled jobs if it was made available to you.
I think that if you enroll in college and are able to maintain a regular course load or even something close to a regular course load, Social Security will consider that activity as "substantial activity."
Similarly, if you attend job corps and can function in activities that are equivalent ot full time work, Social Security will argue that disability benefits should be terminated. You should note that Social Security has a number of work incentive programs such as the "Ticket to Work" program that will continue to pay you while you train and can ease your transition back into the work force.
If you attempt to attend college or if you attempt to participate in a work training program and you cannot sustain the activity because of your mental health issues, such failures will serve as evidence in your favor. This assumes that you continue to seek regular mental health treatment and you have a physician or therapist who will support you.
I think that you are wise to plan for the possibility that Social Security will try to cut you off, and, of course, you will ultimately make more money if you work as opposed to collect disability. Best of luck to you.