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

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

  1. 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

  2. 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.


  3. 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?


          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.


  4. 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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