20 CFR 404.1594 - How we will determine whether your disability continues or ends.

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§ 404.1594 How we will determine whether your disability continues or ends.
(a) General. There is a statutory requirement that, if you are entitled to disability benefits, your continued entitlement to such benefits must be reviewed periodically. If you are entitled to disability benefits as a disabled worker or as a person disabled since childhood, or, for monthly benefits payable for months after December 1990, as a disabled widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse, there are a number of factors we consider in deciding whether your disability continues. We must determine if there has been any medical improvement in your impairment(s) and, if so, whether this medical improvement is related to your ability to work. If your impairment(s) has not medically improved we must consider whether one or more of the exceptions to medical improvement applies. If medical improvement related to your ability to work has not occurred and no exception applies, your benefits will continue. Even where medical improvement related to your ability to work has occurred or an exception applies, in most cases (see paragraph (e) of this section for exceptions), we must also show that you are currently able to engage in substantial gainful activity before we can find that you are no longer disabled.
(b) Terms and definitions. There are several terms and definitions which are important to know in order to understand how we review whether your disability continues. In addition, see paragraph (i) of this section if you work during your current period of entitlement based on disability or during certain other periods.
(1) Medical improvement. Medical improvement is any decrease in the medical severity of your impairment(s) which was present at the time of the most recent favorable medical decision that you were disabled or continued to be disabled. A determination that there has been a decrease in medical severity must be based on changes (improvement) in the symptoms, signs and/or laboratory findings associated with your impairment(s) (see § 404.1528).
Example 1:
You were awarded disability benefits due to a herniated nucleus pulposus. At the time of our prior decision granting you benefits you had had a laminectomy. Postoperatively, a myelogram still shows evidence of a persistent deficit in your lumbar spine. You had pain in your back, and pain and a burning sensation in your right foot and leg. There were no muscle weakness or neurological changes and a modest decrease in motion in your back and leg. When we reviewed your claim your treating physician reported that he had seen you regularly every 2 to 3 months for the past 2 years. No further myelograms had been done, complaints of pain in the back and right leg continued especially on sitting or standing for more than a short period of time. Your doctor further reported a moderately decreased range of motion in your back and right leg, but again no muscle atrophy or neurological changes were reported. Medical improvement has not occurred because there has been no decrease in the severity of your back impairment as shown by changes in symptoms, signs or laboratory findings.
Example 2:
You were awarded disability benefits due to rheumatoid arthritis. At the time, laboratory findings were positive for this condition. Your doctor reported persistent swelling and tenderness of your fingers and wrists and that you complained of joint pain. Current medical evidence shows that while laboratory tests are still positive for rheumatoid arthritis, your impairment has responded favorably to therapy so that for the last year your fingers and wrists have not been significantly swollen or painful. Medical improvement has occurred because there has been a decrease in the severity of your impairment as documented by the current symptoms and signs reported by your physician. Although your impairment is subject to temporary remission and exacerbations, the improvement that has occurred has been sustained long enough to permit a finding of medical improvement. We would then determine if this medical improvement is related to your ability to work.
(2) Medical improvement not related to ability to do work. Medical improvement is not related to your ability to work if there has been a decrease in the severity of the impairment(s) as defined in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, present at the time of the most recent favorable medical decision, but no increase in your functional capacity to do basic work activities as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section. If there has been any medical improvement in your impairment(s), but it is not related to your ability to do work and none of the exceptions applies, your benefits will be continued.
Example:
You are 65 inches tall and weighed 246 pounds at the time your disability was established. You had venous insufficiency and persistent edema in your legs. At the time, your ability to do basic work activities was affected because you were able to sit for 6 hours, but were able to stand or walk only occasionally. At the time of our continuing disability review, you had undergone a vein stripping operation. You now weigh 220 pounds and have intermittent edema. You are still able to sit for 6 hours at a time and to stand or walk only occasionally although you report less discomfort on walking. Medical improvement has occurred because there has been a decrease in the severity of the existing impairment as shown by your weight loss and the improvement in your edema. This medical improvement is not related to your ability to work, however, because your functional capacity to do basic work activities (i.e., the ability to sit, stand and walk) has not increased.
(3) Medical improvement that is related to ability to do work. Medical improvement is related to your ability to work if there has been a decrease in the severity, as defined in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, of the impairment(s) present at the time of the most recent favorable medical decision and an increase in your functional capacity to do basic work activities as discussed in paragraph (b)(4) of this section. A determination that medical improvement related to your ability to do work has occurred does not, necessarily, mean that your disability will be found to have ended unless it is also shown that you are currently able to engage in substantial gainful activity as discussed in paragraph (b)(5) of this section.
Example 1:
You have a back impairment and had a laminectomy to relieve the nerve root impingement and weakness in your left leg. At the time of our prior decision, basic work activities were affected because you were able to stand less than 6 hours, and sit no more than 1/2 hour at a time. You had a successful fusion operation on your back about 1 year before our review of your entitlement. At the time of our review, the weakness in your leg has decreased. Your functional capacity to perform basic work activities now is unimpaired because you now have no limitation on your ability to sit, walk, or stand. Medical improvement has occurred because there has been a decrease in the severity of your impairment as demonstrated by the decreased weakness in your leg. This medical improvement is related to your ability to work because there has also been an increase in your functional capacity to perform basic work activities (or residual functional capacity) as shown by the absence of limitation on your ability to sit, walk, or stand. Whether or not your disability is found to have ended, however, will depend on our determination as to whether you can currently engage in substantial gainful activity.
Example 2:
You were injured in an automobile accident receiving a compound fracture to your right femur and a fractured pelvis. When you applied for disability benefits 10 months after the accident your doctor reported that neither fracture had yet achieved solid union based on his clinical examination. X-rays supported this finding. Your doctor estimated that solid union and a subsequent return to full weight bearing would not occur for at least 3 more months. At the time of our review 6 months later, solid union had occurred and you had been returned to full weight-bearing for over a month. Your doctor reported this and the fact that your prior fractures no longer placed any limitation on your ability to walk, stand, lift, etc., and, that in fact, you could return to fulltime work if you so desired.
Medical improvement has occurred because there has been a decrease in the severity of your impairments as shown by X-ray and clinical evidence of solid union and your return to full weight-bearing. This medical improvement is related to your ability to work because you no longer meet the same listed impairment in appendix 1 of this subpart (see paragraph (c)(3)(i) of this section). In fact, you no longer have an impairment which is severe (see § 404.1521) and your disability will be found to have ended.
(4) Functional capacity to do basic work activities. Under the law, disability is defined, in part, as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s). In determining whether you are disabled under the law, we must measure, therefore, how and to what extent your impairment(s) has affected your ability to do work. We do this by looking at how your functional capacity for doing basic work activities has been affected. Basic work activities means the abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs. Included are exertional abilities such as walking, standing, pushing, pulling, reaching and carrying, and nonexertional abilities and aptitudes such as seeing, hearing, speaking, remembering, using judgment, dealing with changes and dealing with both supervisors and fellow workers. A person who has no impairment(s) would be able to do all basic work activities at normal levels; he or she would have an unlimited functional capacity to do basic work activities. Depending on its nature and severity, an impairment will result in some limitation to the functional capacity to do one or more of these basic work activities. Diabetes, for example, can result in circulatory problems which could limit the length of time a person could stand or walk and damage to his or her eyes as well, so that the person also had limited vision. What a person can still do despite an impairment, is called his or her residual functional capacity. How the residual functional capacity is assessed is discussed in more detail in § 404.1545. Unless an impairment is so severe that it is deemed to prevent you from doing substantial gainful activity (see §§ 404.1525 and 404.1526), it is this residual functional capacity that is used to determine whether you can still do your past work or, in conjunction with your age, education and work experience, any other work.
(i) A decrease in the severity of an impairment as measured by changes (improvement) in symptoms, signs or laboratory findings can, if great enough, result in an increase in the functional capacity to do work activities. Vascular surgery (e.g., femoropopliteal bypass) may sometimes reduce the severity of the circulatory complications of diabetes so that better circulation results and the person can stand or walk for longer periods. When new evidence showing a change in signs, symptoms and laboratory findings establishes that both medical improvement has occurred and your functional capacity to perform basic work activities, or residual functional capacity, has increased, we say that medical improvement which is related to your ability to do work has occurred. A residual functional capacity assessment is also used to determine whether you can engage in substantial gainful activity and, thus, whether you continue to be disabled (see paragraph (b)(5) of this section).
(ii) Many impairment-related factors must be considered in assessing your functional capacity for basic work activities. Age is one key factor. Medical literature shows that there is a gradual decrease in organ function with age; that major losses and deficits become irreversible over time and that maximum exercise performance diminishes with age. Other changes related to sustained periods of inactivity and the aging process include muscle atrophy, degenerative joint changes, decrease in range of motion, and changes in the cardiac and respiratory systems which limit the exertional range.
(iii) Studies have also shown that the longer an individual is away from the workplace and is inactive, the more difficult it becomes to return to ongoing gainful employment. In addition, a gradual change occurs in most jobs so that after about 15 years, it is no longer realistic to expect that skills and abilities acquired in these jobs will continue to apply to the current workplace. Thus, if you are age 50 or over and have been receiving disability benefits for a considerable period of time, we will consider this factor along with your age in assessing your residual functional capacity. This will ensure that the disadvantages resulting from inactivity and the aging process during a long period of disability will be considered. In some instances where available evidence does not resolve what you can or cannot do on a sustained basis, we will provide special work evaluations or other appropriate testing.
(5) Ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. In most instances, we must show that you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity before your benefits are stopped. When doing this, we will consider all your current impairments not just that impairment(s) present at the time of the most recent favorable determination. If we cannot determine that you are still disabled based on medical considerations alone (as discussed in §§ 404.1525 and 404.1526), we will use the new symptoms, signs and laboratory findings to make an objective assessment of your functional capacity to do basic work activities or residual functional capacity and we will consider your vocational factors. See §§ 404.1545 through 404.1569.
(6) Evidence and basis for our decision. Our decisions under this section will be made on a neutral basis without any initial inference as to the presence or absence of disability being drawn from the fact that you have previously been determined to be disabled. We will consider all evidence you submit, as well as all evidence we obtain from your treating physician(s) and other medical or nonmedical sources. What constitutes evidence and our procedures for obtaining it are set out in §§ 404.1512 through 404.1518. Our determination regarding whether your disability continues will be made on the basis of the weight of the evidence.
(7) Point of comparison. For purposes of determining whether medical improvement has occurred, we will compare the current medical severity of that impairment(s) which was present at the time of the most recent favorable medical decision that you were disabled or continued to be disabled to the medical severity of that impairment(s) at that time. If medical improvement has occurred, we will compare your current functional capacity to do basic work activities (i.e., your residual functional capacity) based on this previously existing impairment(s) with your prior residual functional capacity in order to determine whether the medical improvement is related to your ability to do work. The most recent favorable medical decision is the latest decision involving a consideration of the medical evidence and the issue of whether you were disabled or continued to be disabled which became final.
(c) Determining medical improvement and its relationship to your abilities to do work. Paragraphs (b) (1) through (3) of this section discuss what we mean by medical improvement, medical improvement not related to your ability to work and medical improvement that is related to your ability to work. (In addition, see paragraph (i) of this section if you work during your current period of entitlement based on disability or during certain other periods.) How we will arrive at the decision that medical improvement has occurred and its relationship to the ability to do work, is discussed below.
(1) Medical improvement. Medical improvement is any decrease in the medical severity of impairment(s) present at the time of the most recent favorable medical decision that you were disabled or continued to be disabled and is determined by a comparison of prior and current medical evidence which must show that there have been changes (improvement) in the symptoms, signs or laboratory findings associated with that impairment(s).
(2) Determining if medical improvement is related to ability to work. If there is a decrease in medical severity as shown by the symptoms, signs and laboratory findings, we then must determine if it is related to your ability to do work. In paragraph (b)(4) of this section, we explain the relationship between medical severity and limitation on functional capacity to do basic work activities (or residual functional capacity) and how changes in medical severity can affect your residual functional capacity. In determining whether medical improvement that has occurred is related to your ability to do work, we will assess your residual functional capacity (in accordance with paragraph (b)(4) of this section) based on the current severity of the impairment(s) which was present at your last favorable medical decision. Your new residual functional capacity will then be compared to your residual functional capacity at the time of our most recent favorable medical decision. Unless an increase in the current residual functional capacity is based on changes in the signs, symptoms, or laboratory findings, any medical improvement that has occurred will not be considered to be related to your ability to do work.
(3) Following are some additional factors and considerations which we will apply in making these determinations.
(i) Previous impairment met or equaled listings. If our most recent favorable decision was based on the fact that your impairment(s) at the time met or equaled the severity contemplated by the Listing of Impairments in appendix 1 of this subpart, an assessment of your residual functional capacity would not have been made. If medical improvement has occurred and the severity of the prior impairment(s) no longer meets or equals the same listing section used to make our most recent favorable decision, we will find that the medical improvement was related to your ability to work. Appendix 1 of this subpart describes impairments which, if severe enough, affect a person's ability to work. If the appendix level of severity is met or equaled, the individual is deemed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. If there has been medical improvement to the degree that the requirement of the listing section is no longer met or equaled, then the medical improvement is related to your ability to work. We must, of course, also establish that you can currently engage in gainful activity before finding that your disability has ended.
(ii) Prior residual functional capacity assessment made. The residual functional capacity assessment used in making the most recent favorable medical decision will be compared to the residual functional capacity assessment based on current evidence in order to determine if your functional capacity for basic work activities has increased. There will be no attempt made to reassess the prior residual functional capacity.
(iii) Prior residual functional capacity assessment should have been made, but was not. If the most recent favorable medical decision should have contained an assessment of your residual functional capacity (i.e., your impairments did not meet or equal the level of severity contemplated by the Listing of Impairments in appendix 1 of this subpart) but does not, either because this assessment is missing from your file or because it was not done, we will reconstruct the residual functional capacity. This reconstructed residual functional capacity will accurately and objectively assess your functional capacity to do basic work activities. We will assign the maximum functional capacity consistent with an allowance.
Example:
You were previously found to be disabled on the basis that “while your impairment did not meet or equal a listing, it did prevent you from doing your past or any other work.” The prior adjudicator did not, however, include a residual functional capacity assessment in the rationale of this decision and a review of the prior evidence does not show that such an assessment was ever made. If a decrease in medical severity, i.e., medical improvement, has occurred, the residual functional capacity based on the current level of severity of your impairment will have to be compared with your residual functional capacity based on its prior severity in order to determine if the medical improvement is related to your ability to do work. In order to make this comparison, we will review the prior evidence and make an objective assessment of your residual functional capacity at the time of our most recent favorable medical determination, based on the symptoms, signs and laboratory findings as they then existed.
(iv) Impairment subject to temporary remission. In some cases the evidence shows that an individual's impairments are subject to temporary remission. In assessing whether medical improvement has occurred in persons with this type of impairment, we will be careful to consider the longitudinal history of the impairments, including the occurrence of prior remission, and prospects for future worsenings. Improvement in such impairments that is only temporary will not warrant a finding of medical improvement.
(v) Prior file cannot be located. If the prior file cannot be located, we will first determine whether you are able to now engage in substantial gainful activity based on all your current impairments. (In this way, we will be able to determine that your disability continues at the earliest point without addressing the often lengthy process of reconstructing prior evidence.) If you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity currently, your benefits will continue unless one of the second group of exceptions applies (see paragraph (e) of this section). If you are able to engage in substantial gainful activity, we will determine whether an attempt should be made to reconstruct those portions of the missing file that were relevant to our most recent favorable medical decision (e.g., work history, medical evidence from treating sources and the results of consultative examinations). This determination will consider the potential availability of old records in light of their age, whether the source of the evidence is still in operation; and whether reconstruction efforts will yield a complete record of the basis for the most recent favorable medical decision. If relevant parts of the prior record are not reconstructed either because it is determined not to attempt reconstruction or because such efforts fail, medical improvement cannot be found. The documentation of your current impairments will provide a basis for any future reviews. If the missing file is later found, it may serve as a basis for reopening any decision under this section in accordance with the rules in § 404.988.
(d) First group of exceptions to medical improvement. The law provides for certain limited situations when your disability can be found to have ended even though medical improvement has not occurred, if you can engage in substantial gainful activity. These exceptions to medical improvement are intended to provide a way of finding that a person is no longer disabled in those limited situations where, even though there has been no decrease in severity of the impairment(s), evidence shows that the person should no longer be considered disabled or never should have been considered disabled. If one of these exceptions applies, we must also show that, taking all your current impairment(s) into account, not just those that existed at the time of our most recent favorable medical decision, you are now able to engage in substantial gainful activity before your disability can be found to have ended. As part of the review process, you will be asked about any medical or vocational therapy you received or are receiving. Your answers and the evidence gathered as a result as well as all other evidence, will serve as the basis for the finding that an exception applies.
(1) Substantial evidence shows that you are the beneficiary of advances in medical or vocational therapy or technology (related to your ability to work). Advances in medical or vocational therapy or technology are improvements in treatment or rehabilitative methods which have increased your ability to do basic work activities. We will apply this exception when substantial evidence shows that you have been the beneficiary of services which reflect these advances and they have favorably affected the severity of your impairment or your ability to do basic work activities. This decision will be based on new medical evidence and a new residual functional capacity assessment. (See § 404.1545.) In many instances, an advanced medical therapy or technology will result in a decrease in severity as shown by symptoms, signs and laboratory findings which will meet the definition of medical improvement. This exception will, therefore, see very limited application.
(2) Substantial evidence shows that you have undergone vocational therapy (related to your ability to work). Vocational therapy (related to your ability to work) may include, but is not limited to, additional education, training, or work experience that improves your ability to meet the vocational requirements of more jobs. This decision will be based on substantial evidence which includes new medical evidence and a new residual functional capacity assessment. (See § 404.1545.) If, at the time of our review you have not completed vocational therapy which could affect the continuance of your disability, we will review your claim upon completion of the therapy.
Example 1:
You were found to be disabled because the limitations imposed on you by your impairment allowed you to only do work that was at a sedentary level of exertion. Your prior work experience was work that required a medium level of exertion. Your age and education at the time would not have qualified you for work that was below this medium level of exertion. You enrolled in and completed a specialized training course which qualifies you for a job in data processing as a computer programmer in the period since you were awarded benefits. On review of your claim, current evidence shows that there is no medical improvement and that you can still do only sedentary work. As the work of a computer programmer is sedentary in nature, you are now able to engage in substantial gainful activity when your new skills are considered.
Example 2:
You were previously entitled to benefits because the medical evidence and assessment of your residual functional capacity showed you could only do light work. Your prior work was considered to be heavy in nature and your age, education and the nature of your prior work qualified you for work which was no less than medium in exertion. The current evidence and residual functional capacity show there has been no medical improvement and that you can still do only light work. Since you were originally entitled to benefits, your vocational rehabilitation agency enrolled you in and you successfully completed a trade school course so that you are now qualified to do small appliance repair. This work is light in nature, so when your new skills are considered, you are now able to engage in substantial gainful activity even though there has been no change in your residual functional capacity.
(3) Substantial evidence shows that based on new or improved diagnostic or evaluative techniques your impairment(s) is not as disabling as it was considered to be at the time of the most recent favorable decision. Changing methodologies and advances in medical and other diagnostic or evaluative techniques have given, and will continue to give, rise to improved methods for measuring and documenting the effect of various impairments on the ability to do work. Where, by such new or improved methods, substantial evidence shows that your impairment(s) is not as severe as was determined at the time of our most recent favorable medical decision, such evidence may serve as a basis for finding that you are no longer disabled, if you can currently engage in substantial gainful activity. In order to be used under this exception, however, the new or improved techniques must have become generally available after the date of our most recent favorable medical decision.
(i) How we will determine which methods are new or improved techniques and when they become generally available. New or improved diagnostic techniques or evaluations will come to our attention by several methods. In reviewing cases, we often become aware of new techniques when their results are presented as evidence. Such techniques and evaluations are also discussed and acknowledged in medical literature by medical professional groups and other governmental entities. Through these sources, we develop listings of new techniques and when they become generally available. For example, we will consult the Health Care Financing Administration for its experience regarding when a technique is recognized for payment under Medicare and when they began paying for the technique.
(ii) How you will know which methods are new or improved techniques and when they become generally available. We will let you know which methods we consider to be new or improved techniques and when they become available through two vehicles.
(A) Some of the future changes in the Listing of Impairments in appendix 1 of this subpart will be based on new or improved diagnostic or evaluative techniques. Such listings changes will clearly state this fact as they are published as Notices of Proposed Rulemaking and the new or improved technique will be considered generally available as of the date of the final publication of that particular listing in the Federal Register.
(B) A cumulative list since 1970 of new or improved diagnostic techniques or evaluations, how they changed the evaluation of the applicable impairment and the month and year they became generally available, will be published in the Notices section of the Federal Register. Included will be any changes in the Listing of Impairments published in the Code of Federal Regulations since 1970 which are reflective of new or improved techniques. No cases will be processed under this exception until this cumulative listing is so published. Subsequent changes to the list will be published periodically. The period will be determined by the volume of changes needed.
Example:
The electrocardiographic exercise test has replaced the Master's 2-step test as a measurement of heart function since the time of your last favorable medical decision. Current evidence could show that your condition, which was previously evaluated based on the Master's 2-step test, is not now as disabling as was previously thought. If, taking all your current impairments into account, you are now able to engage in substantial gainful activity, this exception would be used to find that you are no longer disabled even if medical improvement has not occurred.
(4) Substantial evidence demonstrates that any prior disability decision was in error. We will apply the exception to medical improvement based on error if substantial evidence (which may be evidence on the record at the time any prior determination of the entitlement to benefits based on disability was made, or newly obtained evidence which relates to that determination) demonstrates that a prior determination was in error. A prior determination will be found in error only if:
(i) Substantial evidence shows on its face that the decision in question should not have been made (e.g., the evidence in your file such as pulmonary function study values was misread or an adjudicative standard such as a listing in appendix 1 or a medical/vocational rule in appendix 2 of this subpart was misapplied).
Example 1:
You were granted benefits when it was determined that your epilepsy met Listing 11.02. This listing calls for a finding of major motor seizures more frequently than once a month as documented by EEG evidence and by a detailed description of a typical seizure pattern. A history of either diurnal episodes or nocturnal episodes with residuals interfering with daily activities is also required. On review, it is found that a history of the frequency of your seizures showed that they occurred only once or twice a year. The prior decision would be found to be in error, and whether you were still considered to be disabled would be based on whether you could currently engage in substantial gainful activity.
Example 2:
Your prior award of benefits was based on vocational rule 201.12 in appendix 2 of this subpart. This rule applies to a person age 50-54 who has at least a high school education, whose previous work was entirely at a semiskilled level, and who can do only sedentary work. On review, it is found that at the time of the prior determination you were actually only age 46 and vocational rule 201.21 should have been used. This rule would have called for a denial of your claim and the prior decision is found to have been in error. Continuation of your disability would depend on a finding of your current ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.
(ii) At the time of the prior evaluation, required and material evidence of the severity of your impairment(s) was missing. That evidence becomes available upon review, and substantial evidence demonstrates that had such evidence been present at the time of the prior determination, disability would not have been found.
Example:
You were found disabled on the basis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The severity of your impairment was documented primarily by pulmonary function testing results. The evidence showed that you could do only light work. Spirometric tracings of this testing, although required, were not obtained, however. On review, the original report is resubmitted by the consultative examining physician along with the corresponding spirometric tracings. A review of the tracings shows that the test was invalid. Current pulmonary function testing supported by spirometric tracings reveals that your impairment does not limit your ability to perform basic work activities in any way. Error is found based on the fact that required, material evidence which was originally missing now becomes available and shows that if it had been available at the time of the prior determination, disability would not have been found.
(iii) Substantial evidence which is new evidence which relates to the prior determination (of allowance or continuance) refutes the conclusions that were based upon the prior evidence (e.g., a tumor thought to be malignant was later shown to have actually been benign). Substantial evidence must show that had the new evidence (which relates to the prior determination) been considered at the time of the prior decision, the claim would not have been allowed or continued. A substitution of current judgment for that used in the prior favorable decision will not be the basis for applying this exception.
Example:
You were previously found entitled to benefits on the basis of diabetes mellitus which the prior adjudicator believed was equivalent to the level of severity contemplated in the Listing of Impairments. The prior record shows that you had “brittle” diabetes for which you were taking insulin. Your urine was 3 for sugar, and you alleged occasional hypoglycemic attacks caused by exertion. On review, symptoms, signs and laboratory findings are unchanged. The current adjudicator feels, however, that your impairment clearly does not equal the severity contemplated by the listings. Error cannot be found because it would represent a substitution of current judgment for that of the prior adjudicator that your impairment equaled a listing.
(iv) The exception for error will not be applied retroactively under the conditions set out above unless the conditions for reopening the prior decision (see § 404.988) are met.
(5) You are currently engaging in substantial gainful activity. If you are currently engaging in substantial gainful activity before we determine whether you are no longer disabled because of your work activity, we will consider whether you are entitled to a trial work period as set out in § 404.1592. We will find that your disability has ended in the month in which you demonstrated your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (following completion of a trial work period, where it applies). This exception does not apply in determining whether you continue to have a disabling impairment(s) (§ 404.1511) for purposes of deciding your eligibility for a reentitlement period (§ 404.1592a).
(e) Second group of exceptions to medical improvement. In addition to the first group of exceptions to medical improvement, the following exceptions may result in a determination that you are no longer disabled. In these situations the decision will be made without a determination that you have medically improved or can engage in substantial gainful activity.
(1) A prior determination or decision was fraudulently obtained. If we find that any prior favorable determination or decision was obtained by fraud, we may find that you are not disabled. In addition, we may reopen your claim under the rules in § 404.988. In determining whether a prior favorable determination or decision was fraudulently obtained, we will take into account any physical, mental, educational, or linguistic limitations (including any lack of facility with the English language) which you may have had at the time.
(2) You do not cooperate with us. If there is a question about whether you continue to be disabled and we ask you to give us medical or other evidence or to go for a physical or mental examination by a certain date, we will find that your disability has ended if you fail, without good cause, to do what we ask. Section 404.911 explains the factors we consider and how we will determine generally whether you have good cause for failure to cooperate. In addition, § 404.1518 discusses how we determine whether you have good cause for failing to attend a consultative examination. The month in which your disability ends will be the first month in which you failed to do what we asked.
(3) We are unable to find you. If there is a question about whether you continue to be disabled and we are unable to find you to resolve the question, we will determine that your disability has ended. The month your disability ends will be the first month in which the question arose and we could not find you.
(4) You fail to follow prescribed treatment which would be expected to restore your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. If treatment has been prescribed for you which would be expected to restore your ability to work, you must follow that treatment in order to be paid benefits. If you are not following that treatment and you do not have good cause for failing to follow that treatment, we will find that your disability has ended (see § 404.1530(c)). The month your disability ends will be the first month in which you failed to follow the prescribed treatment.
(f) Evaluation steps. To assure that disability reviews are carried out in a uniform manner, that decisions of continuing disability can be made in the most expeditious and administratively efficient way, and that any decisions to stop disability benefits are made objectively, neutrally and are fully documented, we will follow specific steps in reviewing the question of whether your disability continues. Our review may cease and benefits may be continued at any point if we determine there is sufficient evidence to find that you are still unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. The steps are as follows. (See paragraph (i) of this section if you work during your current period of entitlement based on disability or during certain other periods.)
(1) Are you engaging in substantial gainful activity? If you are (and any applicable trial work period has been completed), we will find disability to have ended (see paragraph (d)(5) of this section).
(2) If you are not, do you have an impairment or combination of impairments which meets or equals the severity of an impairment listed in appendix 1 of this subpart? If you do, your disability will be found to continue.
(3) If you do not, has there been medical improvement as defined in paragraph (b)(1) of this section? If there has been medical improvement as shown by a decrease in medical severity, see step (4). If there has been no decrease in medical severity, there has been no medical improvement. (See step (5).)
(4) If there has been medical improvement, we must determine whether it is related to your ability to do work in accordance with paragraphs (b) (1) through (4) of this section; i.e., whether or not there has been an increase in the residual functional capacity based on the impairment(s) that was present at the time of the most recent favorable medical determination. If medical improvement is not related to your ability to do work, see step (5). If medical improvement is related to your ability to do work, see step (6).
(5) If we found at step (3) that there has been no medical improvement or if we found at step (4) that the medical improvement is not related to your ability to work, we consider whether any of the exceptions in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section apply. If none of them apply, your disability will be found to continue. If one of the first group of exceptions to medical improvement applies, see step (6). If an exception from the second group of exceptions to medical improvement applies, your disability will be found to have ended. The second group of exceptions to medical improvement may be considered at any point in this process.
(6) If medical improvement is shown to be related to your ability to do work or if one of the first group of exceptions to medical improvement applies, we will determine whether all your current impairments in combination are severe (see § 404.1521). This determination will consider all your current impairments and the impact of the combination of those impairments on your ability to function. If the residual functional capacity assessment in step (4) above shows significant limitation of your ability to do basic work activities, see step (7). When the evidence shows that all your current impairments in combination do not significantly limit your physical or mental abilities to do basic work activities, these impairments will not be considered severe in nature. If so, you will no longer be considered to be disabled.
(7) If your impairment(s) is severe, we will assess your current ability to do substantial gainful activity in accordance with § 404.1560. That is, we will assess your residual functional capacity based on all your current impairments and consider whether you can still do work you have done in the past. If you can do such work, disability will be found to have ended.
(8) If you are not able to do work you have done in the past, we will consider whether you can do other work given the residual functional capacity assessment made under paragraph (f)(7) of this section and your age, education, and past work experience (see paragraph (f)(9) of this section for an exception to this rule). If you can, we will find that your disability has ended. If you cannot, we will find that your disability continues.
(9) We may proceed to the final step, described in paragraph (f)(8) of this section, if the evidence in your file about your past relevant work is not sufficient for us to make a finding under paragraph (f)(7) of this section about whether you can perform your past relevant work. If we find that you can adjust to other work based solely on your age, education, and residual functional capacity, we will find that you are no longer disabled, and we will not make a finding about whether you can do your past relevant work under paragraph (f)(7) of this section. If we find that you may be unable to adjust to other work or if § 404.1562 may apply, we will assess your claim under paragraph (f)(7) of this section and make a finding about whether you can perform your past relevant work.
(g) The month in which we will find you are no longer disabled. If the evidence shows that you are no longer disabled, we will find that your disability ended in the earliest of the following months.
(1) The month the evidence shows you are no longer disabled under the rules set out in this section, and you were disabled only for a specified period of time in the past;
(2) The month the evidence shows you are no longer disabled under the rules set out in this section, but not earlier than the month in which we mail you a notice saying that the information we have shows that you are not disabled;
(3) The month in which you demonstrated your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (following completion of a trial work period); however, we may pay you benefits for certain months in and after the reentitlement period which follows the trial work period. (See § 404.1592a for a discussion of the reentitlement period. If you are receiving benefits on your own earnings record, see § 404.316 for when your benefits will end. See § 404.352 if you are receiving benefits on a parent's earnings as a disabled adult child.);
(4) The month in which you actually do substantial gainful activity (where you are not entitled to a trial work period);
(5) The month in which you return to full-time work, with no significant medical restrictions and acknowledge that medical improvement has occurred, and we expected your impairment(s) to improve (see § 404.1591);
(6) The first month in which you failed without good cause to do what we asked, when the rule set out in paragraph (e)(2) of this section applies;
(7) The first month in which the question of continuing disability arose and we could not find you, when the rule set out in paragraph (e)(3) of this section applies;
(8) The first month in which you failed without good cause to follow prescribed treatment, when the rule set out in paragraph (e)(4) of this section applies; or
(9) The first month you were told by your physician that you could return to work, provided there is no substantial conflict between your physician's and your statements regarding your awareness of your capacity for work and the earlier date is supported by substantial evidence.
(h) Before we stop your benefits. Before we stop your benefits or a period of disability, we will give you a chance to explain why we should not do so. Sections 404.1595 and 404.1597 describe your rights (including appeal rights) and the procedures we will follow.
(i) If you work during your current period of entitlement based on disability or during certain other periods.
(1) We will not consider the work you are doing or have done during your current period of entitlement based on disability (or, when determining whether you are entitled to expedited reinstatement of benefits under section 223(i) of the Act, the work you are doing or have done during or after the previously terminated period of entitlement referred to in section 223(i)(1)(B) of the Act) to be past relevant work under paragraph (f)(7) of this section or past work experience under paragraph (f)(8) of this section. In addition, if you are currently entitled to disability benefits under title II of the Social Security Act, we may or may not consider the physical and mental activities that you perform in the work you are doing or have done during your current period of entitlement based on disability, as explained in paragraphs (i)(2) and (3) of this section.
(2) If you are currently entitled to disability insurance benefits as a disabled worker, child's insurance benefits based on disability, or widow's or widower's insurance benefits based on disability under title II of the Social Security Act, and at the time we are making a determination on your case you have received such benefits for at least 24 months, we will not consider the activities you perform in the work you are doing or have done during your current period of entitlement based on disability if they support a finding that your disability has ended. (We will use the rules in § 404.1590(i)(2) to determine whether the 24-month requirement is met.) However, we will consider the activities you do in that work if they support a finding that your disability continues or they do not conflict with a finding that your disability continues. We will not presume that you are still disabled if you stop working.
(3) If you are not a person described in paragraph (i)(2) of this section, we will consider the activities you perform in your work at any of the evaluation steps in paragraph (f) of this section at which we need to assess your ability to function.
[50 FR 50130, Dec. 6, 1985; 51 FR 7063, Feb. 28, 1986; 51 FR 16015, Apr. 30, 1986, as amended at 52 FR 44971, Nov. 24, 1987; 57 FR 30121, July 8, 1992; 59 FR 1635, Jan. 12, 1994; 65 FR 42788, July 11, 2000; 68 FR 51163, Aug. 26, 2003; 71 FR 66857, Nov. 17, 2006; 77 FR 43495, July 25, 2012]

Title 20 published on 2014-04-01

The following are only the Rules published in the Federal Register after the published date of Title 20.

For a complete list of all Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices view the Rulemaking tab.

  • 2014-08-28; vol. 79 # 167 - Thursday, August 28, 2014
    1. 79 FR 51241 - Extension of the Expiration Date for State Disability Examiner Authority To Make Fully Favorable Quick Disability Determinations and Compassionate Allowances
      GPO FDSys XML | Text
      SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
      Final rule.
      This final rule is effective August 28, 2014.
      20 CFR Parts 404 and 416

This is a list of United States Code sections, Statutes at Large, Public Laws, and Presidential Documents, which provide rulemaking authority for this CFR Part.

This list is taken from the Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules provided by GPO [Government Printing Office].

It is not guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date, though we do refresh the database weekly. More limitations on accuracy are described at the GPO site.


United States Code
U.S. Code: Title 31 - MONEY AND FINANCE
U.S. Code: Title 42 - THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE

§ 401 - Trust Funds

§ 402 - Old-age and survivors insurance benefit payments

§ 403 - Reduction of insurance benefits

§ 404 - Overpayments and underpayments

§ 405 - Evidence, procedure, and certification for payments

§ 405 note - Evidence, procedure, and certification for payments

§ 406 - Representation of claimants before Commissioner

§ 409 - “Wages” defined

§ 410 - Definitions relating to employment

§ 410a - Transferred

§ 411 - Definitions relating to self-employment

§ 412 - Self-employment income credited to calendar years

§ 413 - Quarter and quarter of coverage

§ 414 - Insured status for purposes of old-age and survivors insurance benefits

§ 415 - Computation of primary insurance amount

§ 416 - Additional definitions

§ 417 - Benefits for veterans

§ 418 - Voluntary agreements for coverage of State and local employees

§ 418 note - Voluntary agreements for coverage of State and local employees

§ 421 - Disability determinations

§ 421 note - Disability determinations

§ 422 - Rehabilitation services

§ 423 - Disability insurance benefit payments

§ 424a - Reduction of disability benefits

§ 425 - Additional rules relating to benefits based on disability

§ 428 - Benefits at age 72 for certain uninsured individuals

§ 429 - Benefits in case of members of uniformed services

§ 430 - Adjustment of contribution and benefit base

§ 431 - Benefits for certain individuals interned by United States during World War II

§ 433 - International agreements

§ 902 - Commissioner; Deputy Commissioner; other officers

§ 902 note - Commissioner; Deputy Commissioner; other officers

§ 909 - Delivery of benefit checks

42 U.S. Code § 905, 905a - Transferred

42 U.S. Code § 1320a–8a - Administrative procedure for imposing penalties for false or misleading statements

42 U.S. Code § 905, 905a - Transferred

42 U.S. Code § 905, 905a - Transferred

U.S. Code: Title 48 - TERRITORIES AND INSULAR POSSESSIONS
Statutes at Large

Title 20 published on 2014-04-01

The following are ALL rules, proposed rules, and notices (chronologically) published in the Federal Register relating to 20 CFR 404 after this date.

  • 2014-08-28; vol. 79 # 167 - Thursday, August 28, 2014
    1. 79 FR 51241 - Extension of the Expiration Date for State Disability Examiner Authority To Make Fully Favorable Quick Disability Determinations and Compassionate Allowances
      GPO FDSys XML | Text
      SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
      Final rule.
      This final rule is effective August 28, 2014.
      20 CFR Parts 404 and 416