Trump Administration Proposes Rule Change That Could Cut Off Disabled Recipients

Posted December 13, 2019 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The Trump administration is proposing changes to Social Security that could terminate disability payments to hundreds of thousands of Americans, particularly older people and children.

The new rule would change aspects of disability reviews — the methods by which the Social Security Administration determines whether a person continues to qualify for benefits. Few recipients are aware of the proposal, which is open for public comment through January.

Merely getting benefits in the first place is an extraordinarily difficult task, often taking years and requiring applicants to compile reams of documents, then state and restate their cases in front of hearing officers, adjudicators, and judges.

Those already receiving disability benefits are subject to continuing disability reviews, or CDRs, which determine whether they are still deserving of compensation for an injury, illness, or other incapacitating problem as their lives progress.

Not everyone gets reviewed within the same time frame. For example, a person with a grave illness such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) is placed in a category called “Medical Improvement Not Expected,” and is subject to review every five to seven years. A low-birth-weight baby, on the other hand, may be categorized as “Medical Improvement Expected,” and would be reviewed every six to 18 months, because growth and change are anticipated. The third category is “Medical Improvement Possible.”

The proposed rule change would create a fourth category: “Medical Improvement Likely,” which would mandate disability reviews every two years, creating an additional 2.6 million reviews over the first 10-year period. An estimated 4.4 million beneficiaries would be included in that designation, many of them children and so-called “Step 5 recipients”, individuals who are typically 50-65 years of age, in poor health, and without much education or many job skills.

The inclusion of Step 5 people in the “Medical Improvement Likely” category appears to make little sense, advocates for recipients say. Medical conditions generally deteriorate as already unhealthy people age, and no evidence exists that such beneficiaries are “likely” to improve.

Compelling Step 5 recipients to be reviewed every two years shows “a hostility toward the basic Social Security Act, which takes a holistic view of the individual,” said Jonathan Stein, a former Community Legal Services attorney. He said he believes the ultimate aim of the rule is to review Step 5 recipients so often that they ultimately lose their benefits because of the difficulties complying with the review process.

View the proposed rule and comment here:

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.


By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®