Getting your medical records together yourself could jumpstart your case
You may wish to consider getting your medical records together and submitting them when you apply for disability. I have advised this for years based on my own experiences as a disability examiner and in the representation of claimants. To me, it is common sense and a good piece of advice. However, I am gratified to know that some judges have the exact same opinion about the initial filing stage.
Why is it a good idea to submit your records versus just letting Social Security gather your records? I speak from direct experience in this area. After a disability claim is taken through a Social Security office, it is sent to DDS (disability determination services, the agency that evaluates both SSD and SSI disability benefit claims).
At DDS (the agency may be called by a different name in your home state, such as "Bureau of Disability Determination; however, in most states it is called DDS and the federal Social Security Act actually refers to the various state disability agencies by this term), the claim is assigned to a disability examiner and the examiner's first function will be to request medical records from the treatment sources listed on the disability report form that was completed during the application.
This is where most disability cases experience their first slowdown. How slow? Weeks, and sometimes months. This can be due to several reasons. Sometimes, the medical treatment source is typically slow to responding to any and all requests for information. And sometimes the disability examiner will have difficulty locating the treatment source based on the information that was provided at the time of application (perhaps incorrect, or just incomplete).
Whatever the reason, it is not unusual for more than two or three months to go by before the records are eventually received. During this delay, the case cannot be worked on.
When a claimant gets their own records together and submits them at the time of application, the effect can be that the case, when it lands on the desk of the disability examiner, is "ready to go".
Of course, even when the claimant has gotten their own records, it will be very important that they:
A) have gotten records from all their sources of treatment,
B) have gotten medical records that are current (in the SSA system, you cannot be found disabled unless at least some of the records you have submitted are "recent" meaning no older than 90 days), and
C) have gotten records that go back to the time their disability began.
This is obviously important because you will want to prove the earliest possible onset date possible (when your disability is proven to have begun) so that you can receive the maximum amount of back pay for which you are entitled.
Note: if you have not yet filed a claim and plan to consult with a disability representative or disability attorney, you can discuss issues such as your onset date, your symptoms and conditions, and which medical records to focus on obtaining (for example, notes from a chiropractor's office will not be useful since Social Security does not consider chiropractors as acceptable medical sources).
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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