Getting Records for a Child SSI Disability Claim

I've only said this about a thousand times here. Disability cases boil down to what's in the records. Typically, that means medical evidence in medical records. However, for an SSI child disability claim, records can also include school records, and this can be the case whether the child's impairment is physical or is a mental impairment.

Why would you have to gather school records for a child who is applying for disability on the basis of, say, ADHD, autism, a learning disability, or impaired cognitive functioning (mental retardation, or borderline intellectual functioning)? Because child disability claims are very different from adult cases.

For adults who file for disability, the deciding factor will be whether or not the individual can engage in work activity, either past work or some type of other work.

For child disability claims (SSI), cases are decided on the basis of whether not the claimant can engage in age-appropriate activities. This typically boils down to intellectual and academic performance in comparison to one's peers. And, of course, even a physical impairment, such as seizure disorder or asthma, can have an effect on things like this. One has simply to remember that the social security administration is chiefly concerned with functionality. The reason why (i.e. the condition itself) is largely irrelevant.

Academic records

What type of academic records do you gather for a child SSI disability claim and how do you gather them? Let's discuss the "how" first. This can vary tremendously, depending on the school district. Sometimes, record requests are sent to a centralized records department for a school district, sometimes they are sent to a school's guidance office, sometimes they are sent to a school's main office (the principal's office), and sometimes, less frequently, they are sent to the direct attention of a teacher.

How will you know where to send the record request to? There's really only one way, especially since protocol can vary even between different schools in the very same school district. You should call the school in question and ask them where a request for records on a student in attendance should be sent. As always, of course, send a release form and make sure the request is detailed enough so that you'll actually get back the records you need (otherwise, you could end up getting nothing but grade reports when what you really need is achievement and IQ records).

Problems you may run into in gathering records from a school may include A) general incompetence and B) the school's operating schedule. Regarding A, it can be difficult to gather academic records because many schools (this may or may not surprise people) are run poorly from an administrative standpoint. Regarding B, it can be very difficult to obtain records when a school is on break. Summer breaks can literally mean an inability to obtain records for months at a time, which can be extremely problematic for a disability hearing that is being held in a summer month.

What type of records will be requested on a child SSI Disability claim? Really, anything that may point to functionality and impaired functioning. Logically, this includes grade reports, IEPs, and copies of specialized testing, such as intelligence testing and academic achievement testing. However, it can, and should, also include completed questionaires from a child's teacher, or teachers.

Such questionaires can deliver (to an administrative law judge holding a hearing) a detailed first-hand account from the one individual who is uniquely qualified to report on a child's ability to engage in age-appropriate activities in a school setting; namely, the child's teacher.

Teacher Questionaires

How do you send such a questionaire to a teacher? You may first wish to determine which teacher to send the form to. If the child has a single teacher, the choice is obvious. If the child has multiple teachers such as in higher grade levels, this may be a matter of sending multiple questionaires in the hope that at least one teacher will fill one out and return it.

Where are teacher's questionaires obtained? This is not the type of form that is used by the social security administration, which is odd considering that SSA will obtain reports on a adult claimant's ADLs, or activities of daily living. However, SSA also does not send RFC, or residual functional capacity forms, to a claimant's doctors, so this should not be too surprising.

Teacher's questionaires are typically sent out by a claimant's disability attorney, and generally this effort is only made in preparation for a disability hearing.

As this is the case, a parent who is filing for child disability benefits may actually wish to ask their chosen disability representative if an attempt will be made to obtain such a questionaire. Not doing so is equivalent to being less prepared for a hearing than ideally would be the case. And for this reason, a parent who learns that their child's attorney will not attempt to gather such information may wish to find other representation.

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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