How to Tell What is (and isn’t) in Your Social Security File

Art: Robin Mead. Page Updated June 2019.

Missing medical records are surprisingly common in Social Security disability cases.

Many of our readers report that they did not realize their records were missing or incomplete until after they get denied. Including people with lawyers. Luckily, that won’t happen to you:

How to Check Your File

How to Check Your File – New Applications

How to Check Your File – Reconsiderations

How to Check Your File – Appeals

How to Submit

Find something missing? Or got something new to send?

How to Submit Materials So They Actually Get Put In Your Actual File

How to Stay in Touch

For new applications and reconsiderations:

How to Stay In Touch with Your Disability Examiner

17 thoughts on “How to Tell What is (and isn’t) in Your Social Security File”

  1. Confused. I’ll try to keep it short and give the basics. Aprx 12 years ago I applied for disability due to bipolar disorder. Had years of records and a Attorney. Won case that day by Judge . It’s rare normally there’s some time before the decision. Got back pay and check’s started. No issues for 10 yrs. Then they did a ??? A relook sorry can’t think of the word. But was told this normal. Never heard anything. In meantime life drastically changed and I moved from Georgia to Arizona. Shortly after learned they were stopping my monthly income. Went straight to SSA talked to someone and did everything I was told to do. Gave all info asked for. Had choice of keep receiving my income or let it stop. I kept it. My only income. That went on forever. Always contact through mail
    Day of hearing was on phone with a Judge in California. Answered all questions. Then was told she had no records for me in front of her. How can she make decisions with no records. Don’t know what happened. Should have had records from yrs ago for bipolar and recent records for severe Rhumatoid Arthritis that I was diagnosed within 5 yrs. Not many from AZ I recently moved there and it took over a year to get a RA doc. I tried to explain. It ended in her going to find out what was going on and I would get a letter about this
    Only letter I got was found unfavorably and my checks were stopping. Was worst yr of. My life. Got evicted. Was homeless. In my car. Had to give up dog I’d had since puppy. My life was absolutely distroyed. Wrap up is I got Lawyer. 6 months passed. No hearings no court dates nothing. Got letter from SSA saying found disabled and monthly income would start next month. That was Nov 2020.
    Had million questions no one had answers not even my Lawyer. Still know nothing. But yes ago I got SSDI and. Medicare. Now I got SSI and just Medicaid. Which is less but no complaints I’m thankful I’ve got an apartment and income. Now they hit me with over payment of thousands. I don’t understand any of it. As soon as I got this great news I won check would start. Told my lawyer. Short conversation then any other calls I got nothing. Silence. But in beginning he thought that all this was some kind of mistake on SSA end and would get to bottom of it. At end I couldn’t get him on the phone. Can anyone help me? Does any of this make sense? Well I’m still confused about all of it from start to finish. Thank you


    1. I’m sorry to hear this happened. I am not certain what happened from reading your story, but it looks to me like possibly they are not recognizing that you were still disabled during the time your benefits stopped. This could cause an overpayment if you were still collecting a check at that time. It could also cause you to go from SSDI to SSI.

      I believe the solution for that would be to appeal the decision. Even though it was an approval, you would be appealing the date of disability, to show that you were disabled the entire time. If possible, it would be good if you could track down some kind of medical records which cover that time period. You may need to do it yourself, and make sure they get submitted.

      Hopefully, your lawyer will work with you on this. Another option would be to contact your local legal aid program and see if they can provide any assistance or point you in the right direction. It is also something that you can do on your own if you can’t find a lawyer to work with you. Sometimes lawyers do not want to work on these kind of technical issues, but we do have readers here who have successfully done it on their own. I hope it goes well with for you.

      This page includes information on how to prove that you were disabled in the past…

      Here’s a story of someone who did something similar on their own with no lawyer would take his case. It is a different circumstance, but he was also proving disability started at an earlier date:


  2. I’ve been on SSI since 1994.
    I lost all of my personal copies of my medical records. Since I was awarded disability there are numerous medical records, radiologist findings and my history regarding surgeries etc which I hope that the social security office has in my file which I can no longer access due to all copies being destroyed prior to the utilization of
    My question is ….can I request copies of my records to give to new physicans ?


    1. I don’t know how long Social Security keeps files, particularly ones before computers.

      You can certainly make the request. You will probably need to sign a form and pay a fee. Then they mail it to you on a CD.

      Social Security won’t have collected all your records, but they will have collected some of the records from when you first applied, and then some records each time you came up for review.

      If you try it, I’d love to know what you get.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. also, I had collected a lot of medical records and handed them in at my SS office the first time I went there.
    I sent more later, myself.
    All went “missing”-hundreds of pages of them.
    I also had submitted information from my primary, other specialists, a lengthy detailed letter from a respected specialist I had been seeing for many years, that went into great detail, about my history, diagnoses, functional limitations and so on, plus a functional questionnaire and some pages of journal articles about my condition that the specialist had supplied.
    All those also gone.
    I submitted inquiries and complaints in writing to names and addresses of people at SS that were furnished to me that I was told could assist and hopefully resolve this mess and what appeared to be someone (or many people) directly interfering with my case for purposes of keeping me denied.
    On advice, I also asked to be furnished basically my entire file-everything SS has on me, including all medical records, etc.
    My letters were sent certified mail, faxed and dropped off at the local office.
    I was ignored completely.


  4. What about when they don’t put records in your file purposely that they have received and are in your favor?

    Or they delete them completely?

    Or refuse to request, follow up or subpoena important records that will absolutely prove your case?

    My case manager listed having received records from certain places (with the number of pages they received) in one section and then in another section, where the records were supposed to be, only some of the pages would be there. (Example it may say there are 10 pages and only 4 would be there).

    Others in the list said that certain records “were not retained because they were a duplicate”…but then neither copy showed up in the section where they should have been, so instead of TWO copies, there were ZERO.

    She could not explain to me where the missing pages went…(like it was some mystery she could possibly be asked to solve, like where lost socks go) even though she was the one responsible for all of it!

    And finally, the most important records I needed her to get were not requested by her AT ALL and when I asked her why they were not requested, the answer I received was that she just and I quote, “did not bother.”

    And then laughed…

    My life is dependent on this income and just as much as getting on getting Medicare and this was the response and attitude I received…

    (She also refused to send me for the further medical tests that their own consulting doctors recommended I have done and were to be arranged by SS with no explanation at all.)

    I had furnished the SS office with a typed list of dozens of sources of records on me, including full contact information for them (address, phone numbers, fax numbers everything) dates of service etc. and was told they would get them ALL and if that a place did not respond they would be sent a federal subpoena to produce them, so I was not to worry-they would take care of it


    The denial letter stated that they had received records from a certain number of places (less than 10% of the total number on the list) and then further down in the letter stated that they had “received records from all the sources I had given them”.

    So….even though I kept on top of this, it did not matter…


    1. These are all excellent questions! I think you are not alone in having this experience.

      The best way is always to collect and submit all your records yourself.

      If this is not possible, I think you did everything right.

      When records are still missing, all I can think is someone can make a list of each missing record and then continue to appeal, request to speak to supervisors for the person who was in charge of collecting records, file complaints and/or contact your congressperson.


      1. “I am not sure why they said that about federal subpoena. I have never heard of that happening.”

        Which part? That no one “bothered” or something else?

        Liked by 1 person

          1. You may be right…
            However, I was later told by lawyers that he was correct-that it’s not an automatic, common procedure but that when multiple records had not been provided by a certain date and after repeated requests, the case handlers or their superiors could have returned my file to the federal office, where my file could have been sent to a judge with a list of records that were still missing, with a request for subpoenas to be issued to the specific places that had failed to respond…


            1. Oh good point, thank you. Yes, I could see how that could happen under special circumstances. I have never met anyone who had a judge subpeona their records, but it is helpful to know that it is possible.


  5. This content is so clear and helpful – and the art, and color palette are so beautiful. I need to make it a habit to check in on this site, and your newsletter.


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