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Social Security Disability: Physiological Improvement vs Medical Improvement

When an individual is receiving Social Security Disability benefits, those benefits do not have an expiration date but the beneficiary must undergo continuing eligibility reviews to ensure that they still meet the criteria set forth by the SSA and that they are still entitled to receive the disability payments from the Social Security Administration. How often these reviews occur depend on whether or not improvement of the person’s condition is expected. However, some individuals mistakenly believe that medical improvement is the only thing that could result in a discontinuation of disability benefits. This is not necessarily the case.

Physiological Improvement vs. Medical Improvement

In some cases an individual’s medical condition may not improve, but they may be able to return to the work place because they have found ways to cope with their disability to such an extent that the disability would no longer prevent them from performing gainful work activity. This is what is referred to as physiological improvement. For example, a person who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and could not work due to the disorder may have been approved for Social Security Disability payments in the past. However, during the continuing eligibility review there may be a noted improvement in the person’s ability to deal with stress, people and a working environment. This may be due to a combination of therapy and medication and newly-learned coping skills. While the person still has the same condition that he or she had when she was approved for benefits and there has not been any medical improvement per say, the physiological improvement may indeed result in a withdrawal of the individual’s Social Security Disability benefits because that improvement has changed the individual’s ability to work.

What Does the SSA Look For?

When one is undergoing a continuing eligibility review they must understand that medical improvements are not the only improvements that the SSA is looking for. They are also looking for physiological improvements, as given in the example above. Any type of improvement that could result in an individual being able to return to work may result in a discontinuation of SSDI benefits. The improvement does not have to be medical in nature. It only has to affect the individual’s ability to work.

Many people believe that they only way for their disability benefits to cease is for there to be an improvement to their actual medical condition. As you can see, this is not necessarily the case. If you have experienced physiological improvements that have helped you learn to cope with your disability to the point where you are able to return to work, the case for disability benefits no longer stands and the SSA will expect you to resume gainful work activity now that you are able to do so.

Comments

If someone is permanently developmentally disabled, but high functioning enough to try to work fulltime at a simple job that will exceed the monthly financial limitation, what is the process for notifying SS to suspend the benefit, and if the job ends what is the process for restoring SSDI?