How to Check Your File – Appeals

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After Getting Your Decision Letter

Some states have a step called reconsideration, some states go straight to appeals.

If you are requesting Reconsideration, you’ve come to the wrong page. Check out this page instead.

If you are requesting an appeal and hearing, you’ve come to the right place. Read on.

6+ Months Before Hearing

  • At the moment, not much is happening with your file. It is just going to sit in limbo for a while and no one will pay attention to it. (Except you!)
  • There is a bit of good news: You can relax a little and you do not need to be obsessively checking your records or sending in more records at this point. If your hearing is still six months or more away, having perfect up-to-date records won’t matter right now.
  • Even more good news: Your lawyer can now access your files electronically!! You can ask your lawyer to make a copy of everything for you. Make sure you ask for all files, not just your medical records. You want to see the report from the Social Security doctor and the report from your disability examiner explaining how the decision was made.
  • If you do not have a lawyer, you can contact your local Social Security office and request a CD with your case file. If you don’t have a lawyer, Social Security may send this to you automatically.
  • This can be a great time to check your file and see what was and wasn’t in there the last time a decision got made. If you have questions or want to reach someone to speak about your file, try contacting your local Social Security office.
  • If you discover that any of your past medical records were missing from your file, now is a great time to start gathering them together. You’ll also want to collect any new records you create. Here’s how to collect your records.

3-6 months before your hearing

  • You or your lawyer will get a notice that your file has been transferred to a judges office. This office is called ODAR. This is your new contact place.
  • From now on, when you want to check your records, you can contact your lawyer and/or contact your ODAR office.
  • You should be able to learn what is in your file by contacting your lawyer. Notice I said “should.” For some reason, this does not always work out for everyone, and it is often a good idea to double check by calling the ODAR office yourself.
  • Before you call, it can be helpful to write down a list of all important documents you hope will be there. This might include records from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, clinics, etc. You can ask the person you speak with if they are willing to review your list with you and tell you which items are in your file.
  • Make sure to confirm any specific documents that are important to you – for example, letters from doctors, test results, and rfc forms.
  • If you have a lawyer, your lawyer should be able to access your file electronically and you can ask your lawyer to send you a copy.
  • If you do not have a lawyer, you can request that they ODAR office send you a copy of your case file on CD. It is unclear to me if this file will include all your current records, or only the records that were in your file when the last decision was made. My sense is that different CDs are made different ways.
  • Now is a great time to collect and submit any records that are not in your file already. Here’s how to collect your records. Please make sure you are getting the full medical records with all treatment notes (not just the visit summaries you see online).
  • Sometimes judges make an early decision and you get approved without needing a hearing! That is just the best thing in the world when that happens. If you check your records and update your records and send in new records, you can increase the chances that this will happen to you!
  • These kind of decisions are called an On the Record Decision. If you have a super good case or a super good lawyer, try asking your lawyer if they will write an “On the Record Decision Brief” to help your case.

1 Month Before Hearing

  • A few weeks before your hearing, it’s a great idea to confirm that all your records are present and the most recent records are there. The recent ones will be the most important. Be sure to check dates.
  • You should be able to learn what is in your file by contacting your lawyer. Once again, notice I said “should.” For some reason, this does not always work out for everyone, and it is often a good idea to double check by calling the ODAR office yourself.
  • Make sure to confirm any specific documents that are important to you – for example, letters from doctors, test results, and rfc forms.
  • Now is a great time to collect and submit any last minute records that are not in your file already. Here’s how to collect your records. Please make sure you are getting the full medical records with all treatment notes (not just the visit summaries you see online).
  • If you are unable to collect your own records, it is probably best to look for a lawyer. However, if you do not have a lawyer, it is also possible the judge can arrange to have these records collected for you. It will help if you can make a list of every doctor, hospital, agency, practitioner, and lab along with full contact information for each place, plus dates of treatment.

End Notes

  • If you have a lawyer, it is recommended to work with your lawyer to collect and submit records, so you do not double submit things.
  • Be warned: There are no guarantees in this world. Many people with lawyers still wind up with missing medical records. If you are not completely certain, it is a good idea to both contact your lawyer’s office and call Social Security yourself to double check.

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