Why does it take so long for social security to get medical records?
People who file for disability are often amazed at how long the claims process takes. This is especially so if the claim gets denied at the disability application level and the claimant is forced to enter into the disability appeal process (the first appeal is the request for reconsideration, and the second appeal is the request for hearing; there are other appeals, however most cases are either resolved, or end, at the hearing level). Appeals can certainly cause a disability claim to take months or even years.
Despite the fact that Social Security Disability claims and SSI claims can take this long before benefits are finally awarded, disability examiners, the individuals who work to process case decisions actually try to get cases closed as quickly as possible.
This is simply because disability examiners, who work at disability determination services (DDS is the agency that handles claims processing for the social security administration), are rated and evaluated according to how fast they can get their work done.
Getting the medical records
The very first thing that happens in the development of an SSD or SSI claim is this: the examiner who has been assigned to the case will send out requests for MER, which stands for medical evidence of record, or, simply put, medical records from the claimant's doctors and hospitals. The medical records requests are generated electronically and typically these records requests letters are mailed out the very same day that the examiner has been assigned to the case.
If the disability examiner gets the letters requesting records sent out so quickly, why does it take so long for social security to get the medical records and review them. This is because many medical providers are very slow in responding to requests for records.
In many instances, disability examiners must re-request the records numerous times. This can involve sending fax requests (after the original requests have been mailed out) and making phone calls to medical records departments to do followups.
Disability claims are based solely on the information contained in a claimant's records. And favorable decisions cannot be made without the records being in place. Therefore, it's fairly simple to see that delays in getting records can disadvantage claimants. For this reason, claimants who obtain their own medical records and submit them at the time of applying for SSI disability or SSD benefits can sometimes cut processing time from their cases.
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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