Although rare, a continuing disability review (CDR) sometimes results in a cessation (termination) of Social Security disability benefits. If this happens to you, you have the right to appeal the decision and request that a hearing be held to reconsider your claim.
Here's what you need to know about Social Security's disability cessation appeal process, including how to fill out SSA form 789 and the other necessary forms.
How do you appeal a termination of benefits following an SSDI CDR? The first step in appealing a cessation of benefits is to request a review by the state disability determination agency's hearing office. (The state agency is usually called Disability Determination Services (DDS) or something similar.)
A staff member at the DDS hearing office will review your file to look for mistakes, and the reviewer might reverse the cessation of disability benefits.
But if, after this review, the cessation is upheld, you'll have a hearing with a DDS hearing officer (called a disability hearing officer, or DHO). A DHO is specially trained to review the medical-legal issues posed by a CDR.
If the DHO upholds the cessation of benefits, you can request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). If the ALJ refuses to reverse the cessation of benefit, you can appeal to the Disability Appeals Council and then to federal district court—just as you'd appeal an initial claim. (For more information, see our section on appealing a disability denial.)
The Social Security Administration's (SSA's) purpose in requiring that CDR appeals be heard by a DHO before being sent to an ALJ is twofold. It's an effort to reduce the caseload at the Office of Hearing Operations (OHO) and to streamline the CDR appeals process.
You'll start your disability cessation appeal by filing the following two forms:
You might also need to file a written request to continue benefits. (See more on that below.)
The first step in appealing a cessation of benefits is to file a Form SSA-789-U4 Request for Reconsideration - Disability Cessation Right to Appear. This is a short, simple form that asks for your basic information (name, address, and Social Security number) and allows you to state why you disagree with the CDR decision to stop your benefits.
File Form SSA-789-U4 on time. You must file this form within 60 days of receiving your cessation notice (denial letter). But if you want your disability benefits to continue while you appeal the cessation, you must file the form within 10 days of the denial. And if you lose your appeal, you'll probably have to repay these benefits.
Ask to keep your benefits while you appeal. If you don't ask, you won't continue to get benefits during your disability cessation appeal. To request that your disability benefits be continued, you must submit a written, signed statement when you submit the request for reconsideration to Social Security. Learn more about how to continue getting disability benefits during a CDR appeal.
Submit additional medical evidence. The request for reconsideration form (SSA-789-U4) provides a space for submitting additional medical information. Here, you need to provide Social Security with the following:
Let Social Security know if you plan to attend your hearing. You have the option to be present (with or without an attorney) at your disability cessation appeal hearing at DDS. Simply check box one to indicate that you want to be there.
Or you can waive your right to appear personally at the hearing by checking box two instead. But you shouldn't wave your right to appear if you are able to attend, as it's important that you be there. If you do choose not to appear in person, you'll also need to complete Form SSA-773-U4 so that Social Security can be sure that you understand the rights you're giving up by not appearing.
Get help completing Form SSA-789. If you need help completing the reconsideration request form or any other forms needed to appeal a disability cessation, a representative at your local Social Security field office can assist you. You can find your Social Security field office here.
You'll also need to complete a Disability Report - Appeal form (Form SSA-3441-BK), which is used to update medical and contact information with Social Security while your request for reconsideration of your CDR cessation is pending. This is the same disability report form used when appealing an initial denial of disability benefits.
Even if you've completed this form before, you'll need to fill it out again. But you only need to include any changes that have occurred since the last time you completed this report.
If you aren't sure what's changed since the last time you filled out the disability report, be as detailed as possible when you complete it. It's better to provide too much information than too little.
If this is the first time you've filled out Form SSA-3441-BK, you'll need to complete it in its entirety. Whether or not you've filed this form before, you should use it to provide new information about any of the following:
There's also space at the end of the form for you to provide any other information that you think is helpful. Be sure to attach any relevant medical records. And provide Social Security with the proper contact information for everywhere you've received treatment since your CDR, including all of the following:
When your DHO hearing is first scheduled, you'll get a letter letting you know the time and location of the hearing. The letter will also ask you to notify the disability hearing officer (DHO) about whether you plan to bring any witnesses to testify about your impairment and whether a lawyer will be present.
Once your hearing is scheduled, you should go to your local DDS field office and look at your file to make sure that it's accurate and that nothing's missing. Specifically, you should review the following:
Your hearing with the DHO will be informal. It's not held in a courtroom but instead in a private conference room-like setting.
At the beginning of the hearing, the DHO will usually explain how the hearing will be conducted so that you know what to expect. The DHO will likely discuss your:
The DHO will likely also ask you why you think your disability benefits should continue. At this point, you should ask the DHO the following questions:
To terminate someone's disability benefits following a CDR, Social Security must prove that you've improved enough medically that you can now go back to work. (Learn more about this medical improvement standard.)
Once you know what Social Security based the cessation on, you can try to prove why the SSA is wrong. You'll need to explain how your medical evidence shows that your condition hasn't improved and that you can't do the kind of work that Social Security thinks you can do.
You should also point out any errors in the DDS documents and any evidence that wasn't properly considered. You can also direct the DHO's attention to any supporting statements made by the doctor(s) or psychologist(s) treating you.
It might be possible to have the cessation decision reversed without the necessity of a DDS hearing (before your cessation appeal gets to a disability hearing officer). To get such a reversal, you'd need to show that the DDS didn't review the cessation denial properly—which in turn requires a visit to your DDS office.
The DDS staff member who reviewed your CDR denial might have done so without considering the opinion of a medical professional (a medical consultant who works for DDS). To determine whether your appeal was denied without a medical consult, you should review your disability case file at your local DDS office.
If you discover that a doctor wasn't involved in the pre-DHO hearing review, insist that a DDS medical consultant review your file along with a DDS staff member. Occasionally, a cessation decision is reversed by the DDS staff member once a doctor has properly reviewed the evidence.
If you provided Social Security or DDS with new medical evidence to support your claim for disability following the cessation of your benefits, make sure it was taken into account. Some review teams (the DDS staff member and a medical consultant) will disregard new medical evidence and merely rubber-stamp the CDR decision.
Again, you can go to your local DDS office and request to review your file. If it appears that the new evidence wasn't considered, you could write a letter to the DDS director or make a phone call and ask that your file be reopened so that the new evidence can be considered.
(Find your local DDS office using our state disability resources page.)
Within a few weeks after your hearing, a written opinion will be sent to you that states the DHO's decision and the basis for the decision. If the DHO doesn't reinstate your disability benefits, you can appeal the denial to an administrative law judge (ALJ).
If your cessation disability appeal was denied by the DHO, you have 60 days to appeal the decision to an administrative law judge. But, if you still want your benefits to continue during the appeal, you'll need to file your request for a hearing within 10 days.
To request an ALJ hearing, you must first file the following forms:
This form is straightforward and similar to SSA-789-U4 (Request for Reconsideration—Disability Cessation Right to Appear) discussed above. You'll need to provide:
Form SSA-3441-BK is the same form (the Disability Report) that you filed with your Request for Reconsideration of Disability Cessation. When you complete Form SSA-3441-BK this time, just update any new information that wasn't discussed in your most recent Disability Report.
The Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration (Form SSA-827) is simply a medical release form that allows Social Security to request and receive your personal medical information. This is the same form you likely completed when you initially applied for Social Security disability.
Once you've completed and returned the forms to Social Security, an ALJ hearing will be scheduled. But wait times for hearing dates can be long, depending on the caseload at the OHO.
To learn more about the disability hearing process, see our articles on administrative law judge disability hearings.
The law doesn't require you to hire an attorney to represent you through the CDR or disability cessation appeal process. But because the procedure can be complicated, and a lot is at stake, it's a good idea to consult an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability law.
If you can find a lawyer to help you appeal a CDR cessation, Social Security will pay the attorneys' fees directly using any back benefits you have coming. But because of this payment system, it can be difficult to find a lawyer to represent you if you continue receiving benefits during the appeal—since there'd be no funds available with which to pay the attorney. In these cases, an attorney can petition Social Security for a reasonable fee.
Learn more about hiring a disability attorney.
January 18, 2023