How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Lawyers, Medical Records, and Social Security Hearings - How attorneys prepare cases and why you shouldn't go alone

Disability lawyers and non-attorney disability representatives do a variety of tasks when they handle a claim, and this includes doing the following to prepare a presentation of the case to a federal judge:

1. A disability attorney will obtain a copy of the claimant's file. This is done for several reasons: to review the file and to see why the claim was previously denied, as well as to observe the materials that were previously gathered by the disability examiner, such as substantiation of the claimant's work history and the medical evidence that was obtained from the claimant's doctors.

By reviewing the work history, the disability lawyer or representative can check to see if the claimant's past work was properly identified. Proper classification of past work (for instance, accounting clerk versus accountant, or light truck driver versus tractor-trailer-truck driver, etc) can absolutely make a difference in the decision reached on a claim.

By reviewing the medical records, the disability lawyer or representative can check to see if the evidence was evaluated properly. It may be that the claimant possesses greater physical or mental limitations than was considered to be the case by the disability examiner. If this is true, it may be that the claimant cannot return to a past job that was indicated by the disability examiner, or it may be that the claimant cannot do some type of other work that was indicated by the disability examiner.

2. A disability attorney will obtain additional medical record documentation. Most applicants for disability benefits are not aware of the fact that, although the social security administration will gather medical records to develop a claimant's case when it is being processed at the first two levels of the system (application and reconsideration), SSA will not gather records for a disability hearing.

Making things even more problematic is the fact that, by the time a disability hearing takes place, many months will have usually passed from the time of the last denial, meaning that there will be no recent medical records in the file. "Recency", of course, is a big component of disability claims in the social security system: without at least some records that are recent (meaning not older than 90 days), a case simply CANNOT AND WILL NOT be approved.

Unfortunately, claimants who are not represented will often not be aware of this fact until they show up for their hearing, which is, of course, too late. However, even claimants who are mindful enough to obtain recent records and submit them to the hearing office will not know when to obtain them.

Disability attorneys typically know, based on various events that occur "along the way to a disability hearing date", when they should start sending request letters to the claimant's various medical treatment providers. The trick is simply to request the records at a certain time so that, when they arrive, they can be submitted to the hearing right before the hearing takes place. Claimants who do not know "the right time" for gathering records will usually get medical record updates far too soon, so that when the hearing occurs there are still no recent records in the file.

Additionally, claimants who go to hearings unrepresented will not typically know how to obtain a medical source statement from their treating physician to present to the administrative law judge who is assigned to their case. It is simply not sufficient to try to obtain a simple undirected statement from one's doctor to take to a hearing.

The statement obtained should satisfactorily address the claimant's level of functional restrictions in a wide variety of areas. And this is precisely why many disability attorneys and representatives use a pre-formatted form for the doctor to complete.

The medical source statement form, also known as a residual functional capacity form, will usually resemble a check-off style form, but it will allow the claimant's physician to provide the judge with the information that is needed to support an approval determination. Of course, most experienced and competent disability attorneys and representatives will have their own individualized forms ready for the hearing preparation process.

To address a basic question, can a person win a disability hearing if they go without representation? Yes, however, the chances of winning will be significantly less due to the inability of most claimants to properly prepare a case for presentation to an ALJ (administrative law judge).

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

What does a Social Security Disability Attorney or Representative do for your claim?
Getting a Social Security Disability Attorney or Representative for your case
How will an attorney help me win disability benefits?
Disability Lawyers, Medical Records, and Social Security Hearings
What Expenses Will A Social Security Attorney Charge In Addition To The Fee?
Can a disability attorney speed up my disability hearing case?
Should you get a Disability Lawyer before you File for Disability, or get an answer on your claim?
Using a lawyer for a Social Security Disability, SSDI, case
How does age affect a Social Security Disability or SSI case?
Social Security Disability For Back Condition pain in California
How much can you make in California and still apply for disability?
Disability requirements and criteria in California

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

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.