Topic Categories:

Social Security Disability Definitions

Social Security Disability and SSI Overview

The Requirements for Disability

Social Security Disability and SSI Applications

Tips and Advice for Disability Claims

How long does Disability take?

Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial

Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

Social Security Disability and SSI Appeals

Social Security Mental Disability Benefits

Disability Benefits offered through Social Security

Benefits through SSI disability

Disability Benefits for Children

Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify

Social Security Disability and Working

Winning your Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Back Pay Benefits

Social Security Disability SSI Awards and Award Notices

Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney

Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions

What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?

Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence

Filing for Disability Benefits

Eligibility for Disability Benefits

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How Far Back Does Social Security Look At Your Medical Records for an SSDI or SSI Case?

Social Security does not require you to have any past medical history in order for you to file for disability benefits (under SSDI, social security disability insurance or SSI, supplemental security income). However, disability examiners prefer to have past medical treatment records to make their disability decisions. If you have been treated for your disabling condition in the past, your treating physicianís notes (i.e. your personal doctor's notes) often offer a perspective that is not available otherwise.

For instance, hospital treatment notes generally do not include information about your limitations or your response to various treatment methods. Hospital records generally provide useful objective medical evidence (i.e. various imaging results, lab tests, etc.) and acute medical treatment records, but they do not tell the examiner much about the ongoing severity of your disabling condition or how these limitations might prevent you working enough to be self supporting.

The key to winning SSDI or SSI disability benefits from the Social Security Administration is having an impairment that so severely limits your ability to function; that is, it prevents you from doing ordinary daily activities such as work, shopping, household chores, paying bills, driving, etc. Past or old medical records can provide useful information as to how debilitating your medical impairment has been over the course of time.

What does a disability examiner (or an administrative law judge if your case is at the hearing level) look for in your medical records? Disability examiners look for objective medical evidence to support your allegation of a severe physical or mental impairment. Objective evidence might be imaging results (MRI, cat scan, x-ray, etc.), blood work, breathing tests, counseling notes, or any other evidence used to diagnose and treat various disabling impairments.

Disability examiners can only consider medical evidence from acceptable medical sources. Licensed or certified medical professionals such as physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, podiatrists, speech therapists, etc. are considered acceptable medical sources by Social Security. Currently, chiropractors are not considered an acceptable medical source by Social Security. However, disability examiners can use any objective medical testing results (usually, this means xrays) contained in their records for their medical disability decision.

What if you have no current medical records? There is no way for a disability examiner to make a decision on a claim without current medical records. If you have no medical records, or just no current medical records (meaning no older than three months), you will most likely be scheduled for a consultative examination, CE for short.

Social Security pays independent medical professionals to perform these short basic physical or mental consultative exams. These exams are not likely to give a true picture of a personís limitations and are performed strictly for the purpose of giving the disability examiner some current medical information to make their disability determination.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria