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Handling a Social Security Disability medical records request for claims can be a daunting task, especially when you’re already struggling with the challenges of a severe, long-term disability. One of the most critical and often overwhelming aspects of the process is requesting and submitting the extensive medical records needed to prove your case. Without comprehensive, compelling evidence of your disabling conditions, your claim may be denied, leaving you without the vital benefits you need and deserve.

But with the right knowledge and support, you can successfully gather and present the medical evidence necessary to build a strong disability claim. Following is information to guide you through the key steps of requesting and submitting your medical records, from understanding what types of records the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks for to tips for obtaining and organizing your documentation.

How Does SSA Obtain Medical Records?

When you submit your application for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will request medical records from all the healthcare providers you have listed. You must provide their complete contact information and sign medical release forms authorizing your providers to share your records with the SSA.

Sometimes, the SSA may also request that you undergo a consultative examination (CE) with a doctor of their choosing at their expense. This examination aims to gather additional information about your disabling conditions. Attending this exam is important, as failing to do so could result in the denial of your claim.

What Medical Records Are Necessary for a Disability Claim?

To build a strong case for your disability claim, you should submit records from all medical sources that have diagnosed or treated your conditions. This may include:

  • Primary care physicians who oversee your general health
  • Specialists who treat specific conditions, such as orthopedists, neurologists, or psychiatrists
  • Hospitals and clinics where you have received inpatient or outpatient care
  • Mental health professionals, including therapists and counselors
  • Physical or occupational therapists who have helped with rehabilitation
  • Any other healthcare providers who treated your disabling conditions

The most helpful records to submit include detailed doctor’s notes, laboratory and imaging results, surgical reports, treatment plans, and doctor statements about your diagnoses, symptoms, limitations, and prognosis. The more thorough and compelling your medical evidence, the stronger your case.

How Far Back Should Medical Records Go for a Disability Claim?

You should provide medical records dating back to the onset of your disabling conditions—that is, when they first began to limit your ability to work significantly. The SSA typically focuses on records from the 12 months prior to your application date, as this is the most relevant period for assessing your current level of disability.

However, in some cases, the SSA may request records going back even further if they believe it is necessary to establish the history and progression of your condition over time. Providing a complete medical history can help demonstrate the severity and duration of your disability and any efforts you have made to treat and manage your conditions.

How Can I Obtain Copies of My Medical Records?

To get copies of your medical records, start by contacting your healthcare providers’ offices directly. You may need to fill out a formal records release authorization form and pay a reasonable fee to cover the costs of copying and mailing the records. Many providers are familiar with the SSA’s requirements and will send the records directly to the agency on your behalf.

Remember, you have a legal right to obtain copies of your own medical records under federal law. If a provider fails to produce the records needed for your disability claim in a timely manner, don’t hesitate to contact the SSA for assistance in obtaining them.

What Should I Do If I Can’t Afford to Pay for Medical Records?

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Obtaining medical records is a crucial part of the Social Security Disability claims process, but the associated costs can be a significant barrier for many applicants. If you’re struggling to afford the fees for copying and mailing your records, don’t lose hope—some strategies and resources may help.

  • Contact your healthcare providers to explain your financial situation and ask if they offer any fee waivers, discounts, or payment plans for medical record requests.
  • Reach out to the Social Security Administration for assistance. In some cases, the SSA may be able to request your records directly from your providers at no cost to you.
  • Ask your lawyer for additional strategies for covering this expense.

Contact a Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

Navigating the complex Social Security Disability claims process can be challenging, especially when it comes to gathering and submitting the necessary medical evidence. The knowledgeable Social Security disability attorneys at Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. are here to guide you through the process and work diligently to build the strongest possible case on your behalf. Call us today at 516-496-0400 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation.


Last Updated : July 8, 2024
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