It breaks our heart every time we hear from a reader who goes to their hearing and then discovers (too late) that some of their important records were never seen by the judge!
Surprisingly, this sometimes happens even to people who have lawyers.
Happily, you can avoid this fate by checking your file and making sure your most important records get in.
Starting Your Appeal
When you first request your appeal hearing, it is not necessary to send more records. It will likely be 1-2 years before you get a hearing date, so anything you submit now will just sit in a file and get ignored.
(It’s still a good idea to collect your records now though! A really good idea! Reading all your records is one of the most important thing you can do to help your disability case).
Getting Your CD
You can request a copy of your case file on CD. You can get this from your lawyer or by calling or visiting your local Social Security office. Once your case is assigned to a judge’s office, you can get it from the judge’s office instead. Some readers report that they could open the CD on a windows computer but not on a mac.
The CD will show you what records Social Security does and does not have in this moment. It will also let you view each record to see if any pages got left out or went missing. It will also give you more information on how the last decision was made and you will get to read notes from the person who decided.
Assigned to a Judge’s Office
At some point, you or your lawyer will be notified that your case was assigned to a judge’s office (in most states this office is called ODAR).
Many people wait until just before a hearing before submitting records. However, if you wish to be considered for an earlier decision, you might want your records to get there sooner. These decisions are called On The Record decisions, and you can talk with your lawyer to see if this is something they can help you with.
Before Your Hearing: If You Have a Lawyer
In the month or two before your hearing, your lawyer should start collecting your records. Before the hearing, your lawyer can submit them all electronically to Social Security. You may find it helpful to ask your lawyers for copies of all records. Some readers report they collected their own records and brought them to the lawyer.
Before Your Hearing: If You Don’t Have a Lawyer
Most people find it helpful to have a lawyer for their hearing appeal. There is no charge upfront. However, we have heard from some readers who were unable to get lawyers for various reasons and did still get approved.
If you don’t have a lawyer, you can contact the judge’s office and ask them for the forms to sign to collect your records. They will send the forms to your doctor for you. Or you can inquire if you can collect and submit the records yourself. Be sure to follow up to make sure all the records were actually received.
To avoid any unhappy surprises, it’s a good idea to double check. Your lawyer may be able to give you a copy of your case file on CD. You can also request an updated CD from the judge’s office. Make sure to check each record is complete. Sometimes a few pages of an important report can be missing.
Some readers also had success by calling the judge’s office and asking the clerk to read them the names of which medical records were currently appearing in their files, along with dates. Be sure to specifically ask about any important letters or RFC forms.
Tips for Submitting
💠 Here’s how you can collect your medical records.
💠 If you are collecting your own records, please make sure you get the full records with treatment notes, not just the visit summaries or online records.
💠 Keep copies.
💠 Put your name and social security number on every document, ideally every page.
💠 The above information is about hearing appeals. If you are at a different stage with your application, look here: How Do I Submit Records So They Don’t Get Lost?
What Do You Think?
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