The Disability Expert

A Free Guide to Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Disability Benefits





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What Medical Records Should You Submit When You Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits? 

By R. M. Bottger 

When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will ask you for a list of treatment that you have received in order that the disability determination specialist handling your case can write to these sources to obtain copies of your medical records  (see The Disability Report Form). What SSA may not have told you is what they do to obtain these records. 

When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, SSA writes to all of your treatment sources requesting copies of your records. SSA usually requests copies of records starting one year prior to the time that your impairment made you stop working. If the records are not received, SSA sends a follow-up letter about three weeks after the original letter. SSA pays these sources a small fee to cover the cost of copying these records. If the records are still not received, SSA is not required to make any other effort to obtain the records. Some disability determination specialists might make a phone call to the treatment source to try to get the records. However, most disability determination specialists have such large caseloads that you cannot count on them doing anything else to try to obtain records. Medical facilities get such a large number of requests from SSA that it sometimes takes three or four months to get copies of records. When I was a disability determination specialist, I would occasionally receive records as long as a year after I requested them. SSA pressures disability determination specialists to make decisions on cases as fast as possible. The result of all this is that decisions are often made on claims for Social Security disability benefits before all existing medical records are in the file.  

What can you do about this? If you are planning on applying for Social Security disability benefits, obtain copies of your medical records first and give them to SSA when you turn in your application. Obtain all records for at least one year prior to the time your condition first prevented you from working. Obtain all records from medical doctors, psychologists, hospitals, and any other place you have received treatment. If you already have a disability case pending, call your disability determination specialist and find out what records are still missing from your case. Go to the treatment source and obtain copies of the records yourself and mail or fax them to your disability determination specialist. Be sure to clearly mark your name and Social Security number on any records that you send to SSA. Be sure to make a follow-up call to your disability determination specialist to make sure that he or she receives your records. If you have an additional hospitalization, medical tests, or other treatment while your case is still pending, be sure to call your disability determination specialist and let him or her know about it. A little extra effort on your part to make sure all of your records are in your file can make the difference between a denial and an allowance.  

If you would like, you may have your doctor write a letter to SSA about your claim for Social Security disability benefits. (See A Letter From Your Doctor About Your Disability Claim-Physical Impairments.) 

If you do not have any medical records or insufficient medical records to evaluate your condition, SSA will schedule an examination for you in order to evaluate your claim for Social Security disability benefits. (See Examinations Scheduled for You by SSA for Your Disability Claim.)

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