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Requesting Medical Records and
Adding Them to Your Claim File

   Unlike regular state courts which have special rules setting out how documents may be entered into a court record, the Social Security Administration has a very informal policy.  Social Security accepts photocopies of records, with or without a doctor’s signature, and Social Security does not require the medical record custodian to appear in court to authenticate the record.

   When you first apply for benefits, your claims rep will ask you to sign several SSA medical authorization forms called 827 forms (click to download). The claims rep will use these authorizations to request copies of records from each of the physicians, therapists, hospitals and other health care providers that you have identified in your application paperwork.

   By law, SSA is only obligated to pay $10 for each set of records requested.  These same records, if requested by a plaintiff’s lawyer or some other party ,might cost 10 cents a page, and total hundreds of dollars.

   As a general rule, SSA adjudicators (claims reps) do a decent job in requesting medical records.  Again, if you provide the name and address of the provider, your rep will send out the form letter and release to obtain the records.

   You need to pay particular attention to three elements of your claims rep’s gathering of medical records:

  • *  you need to follow up with your doctor, hospital or health care provider to make sure that the claims rep’s request is filled.  One of the most common complaints that claimants have is that a decision was made in their case without all of the records.  This happens because the claims reps are busy and operating under time deadlines.  If your doctor does not send in the records, there generally is no follow up and a decision is made with what is available.
  • *  Many doctors use copy services to produce medical records and some of these services choose to ignore request from Social Security since there is no money involved. 
  • *  Once a hearing request is filed, the claims rep is relieved of his duties in your case and you or your lawyer is solely responsible for updating the medical and vocational records.  Since the delay between hearing request and the actual scheduling of a hearing can be one to two years, someone has to be responsible for updating the exhibit file.  That someone is you or your lawyer.  There is nothing that Social Security judges hate more than a record that ends with the last record dated 18 to 24 months ago.
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