Diane Jankowski


Massive termination of Social Security disability benefits has stirred considerable controversy over the procedure employed to separate wrongfully-terminated, deserving recipients from malingerers. After meeting the statutory definition of "disability," most recipients are not automatically granted continuous benefits. Rather, the Social Security Administration undertakes periodic investigations to determine whether recipients continue to remain eligible for disability compensation. Procedural questions concerning terminations were settled by a 1982 Amendment to the Social Security Act that mandated face-to-face reconsideration hearings. Problems remained, however, regarding which party bore the burden of proof in presenting evidence of continued disability. Although this Note will briefly outline the administrative process followed in evaluating continuing disability, its primary focus will be on the newly-enacted medical improvement standard. Specifically, decisions giving rise to the standard will be reviewed with an examination of the courts' rationales for adopting such a standard. The text of the 1984 Amendment will then be compared to case law to determine whether it reflects any of the courts' reasons for adoption. Possible interpretations and potential problems will be pointed out. Finally, the standard's future impact on disability recipients will be discussed.