Is There any Benefit to Viewing Your Social Security Disability SSI File?

I was having this conversation with another individual who is also a former disability examiner and is currently a CR (claims rep) in a social security office. Our shared opinion was that there was, for most claimants, little advantage to an unrepresented claimant viewing their file. This is simply because most claimants will have difficulty understanding how prior decisions (by disability examiners) were made.

Without an understanding of how past work and other work are viewed and how medical vocational rules are applied to direct the outcome of a case, it might asking a little too much of anyone who is not a disability examiner, CR, or disability representative (who could be a disability attorney or a non-attorney representative) to understand exactly what has transpired on a case at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels.

However, there are a few reasons that can validate a claimant getting a copy of the disability file on disc.

1. The claimant can see what medical evidence was obtained and if any treatment date ranges were missed. As to medical records, the claimant can also learn whether or not incorrect records were accumulated in the file (I recently became aware of a situation where the file included records for a person of the same name, but which did not belong to the actual claimant: obviously a mistake).

2. The claimant can potentially learn what the medical treatment sources (your treating physician and other sources of treatment) may really think about the claimant's condition and their limitations. Sometimes, this can be enlightening. I have actually encountered situations in which claimants fully believed that their doctor stood 100% behind their claim. Then, after an attempt was made to obtain a medical source statement supporting the claim, it became clearer that the physician did not actually believe that their patient possessed functional limitations to the extent that they were disabling.

3. The claimant may be able to see how their own description of the various jobs that entailed their past work became translated into actual job identifications by the disability examiner (using a reference source known as the DOT, or dictionary of occupational titles). In some cases, an astute claimant may find that the job title and description of work duties assigned by the examiner to the job title and description of work duties provided by the claimant...are not a valid match.

Why do bad matches occur? Because there are many jobs that exist in the national economy that are not listed in the DOT. This may be particularly true in the case of tech jobs that have been created in the last decade...The DOT, on the other hand, has not been updated by its publication source (the Department of Labor) since 1991.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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