You've probably stabilized in terms of your symptoms so you might not be going to the doctor as much as you were when you first applied for benefits. Usually when people first apply for benefits it is when their conditions first start or begin to really decline. After being on disability for several years, you might have gotten used to your condition. You know what you can and cannot do and you might have fewer bad days as a result. Your doctor might not need to see you monthly anymore. This isn't a bad thing. Social Security is just looking to see if you can work now or not. Disability benefits are very difficult to get. Once on them you have the presumption that you are disabled. Social Security expects that you may not be going to the doctor quite as much or maybe learned to handle your condition better. Don't worry about it.
Having said that, you do still need to go to the doctor. Depending on the condition, you need regular medical treatment. You don't have to go monthly, but you at least need to go every year. Doctors recommend a physical yearly anyway, but you should be regularly checking in with some sort of doctor regarding your pain and your symptoms. New treatments are available all the time and there may be something new you could try.
You also need to continue to take your medications and continue treatment. The Social Security rules still apply, Particularly for mental health cases, they want to see that you are disabled at the absolute best you can function. You don't need to get statements constantly from your doctor saying you can't work. (Although once you get notice that your case is under review it's not a bad idea.) But be aware that if your case comes up for review, you need to prove that you are still doing what you can to get better.
Once you get the forms turned in to Social Security, they will request some of your medical records and make sure that you are still disabled. For most people, this is the last you will hear of it until your next disability review. If Social Security thinks that you might be able to work, they may request that you go to one of their doctors for a consultative exam. You likely went to one before when you applied for disability. The doctor makes his report and Social Security decides if you are still disabled. Again, this will likely be the last you hear of it until your next disability review.
If Social Security decides that you can do some sort of work, then you need to move quickly. While you have 60 days to appeal the decision, you have ten days to request an appeal and have your payments continue. You need to file a Request for Reconsideration for Disability Cessation immediately upon finding out that Social Security is cutting off your benefits. I highly suggest going to your local office to file it with a date stamp so you know that it was received.
At this point the case goes to Disability Determination Services (DDS) for a review. They will ask you to come to an interview at their office. This is not the same thing as an Administrative Hearing that you may have gone to when you applied for benefits. The interview is at the local DDS office and basically consists of the DDS examiner asking you what you can and cannot do. It is tape recorded and it is less formal than the hearings at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The disability examiner will review the evidence and decide if you are still disabled.
If DDS denies you, you need to file a for a hearing. Because this is not a typical disability case, you cannot appeal online. I recommend going in to your local office again. You have 60 days to appeal the decision. If you had your benefits continue after you were cut off from Social Security, your benefits will still continue as long as you appeal this decision as well. If you are denied at the hearing level, you will be expected to pay those benefits back. Please keep this in mind when deciding whether to keep your benefits while appealing.
The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review will then have your case and you will need to wait for a hearing along with all of the disability applicants. This can be up to and over a year. In the meantime, you need to be seeing your doctors and getting statements from them that you cannot work. The hearing then is similar to the disability hearings only the focus is whether or not you can work now.
If you are denied at the hearing level, Social Security will want you to pay them back for the months that you received payments after they decided you were able to work. You will now be in an overpayment situation. If you chose not to have your benefits continue, this is not an issue. You can appeal your case to the Appeals Council so your case is not dead. Again, you have 60 days to appeal.
Most people who receive their continuing disability reviews never have to go beyond filling out the initial form. Simply getting the form is no reason to worry. What you need to pay attention to is making sure that Social Security always has your correct address if you move because they will send out these forms and you do not want to ignore them. Because we now have direct deposit, there is less incentive to remember to update Social Security on your current address. Never ignore forms from Social Security. As with anything else, just tell them the truth.
If you have any other questions, please contact The Foster Law Firm at (480)621-7231 or read our book, Social Security Disability Guide for Beginners, now available at Amazon.com.