Social Security Disability, Medical Records and a Disability Attorney
I've said more than once on this blog that a claimant can do the work of getting their own medical records together. And at the disability application step and the request for reconsideration appeals level, this is not a bad idea at all. Getting the records and submitting them yourself can potentially help speed your disability case along faster.
I know from personal experience as a former disability examiner that whenever a case landed on my desk with all the medical records already there, I viewed it as a bonus. And I worked on that case immediately because it was an opportunity to get a case done quickly and improve my work statistics.
At the Social Security Disability ALJ hearing appeal level, however, things are a bit different. I would have to say that, at this level , it is better to leave the record gathering to your representative, either a disability lawyer or a qualified non-attorney representative.
Why is this? Because a representative will be more likely to know which records to focus on and which records take priority in gathering. For instance, when requesting medical records from a hospital medical records department, you will probably not to waste time (and the expense of copying) obtaining the nurse's notes. Generally, these are of little to no value with regard to winning a disability case, and, due to their sheer volume, may slow down the processing of your medical record request.
However, there is another aspect to letting a representative gather records for you, which is this---clerks at medical record departments are more likely to "rush" a request from the office of John Smith the claimant's representative (fictional name) than from John Smith, the patient.
This has everything to do with human nature. People tend to respect, and, consequently, respond more quickly to officialdom, i.e. "things and people who sound official".
Of course, there are many other reasons for having representation at a disability hearing, such as the fact that unrepresented claimants have a much lower chance of being awarded benefits. But, in the case of medical records, it it pretty obvious---let your rep do the record gathering.
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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