When you first file for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will use the information you provide them to order recent medical records and make a determination in your claim.
If you’re denied in the first two stages of the process and your case goes to hearing, your attorney will order updated records to be reviewed by an administrative law judge.
In most cases, this is a fairly simple process. You sign a release of information form, and within a few weeks, your medical provider sends your attorney these records either electronically, by fax, or by mail. Every now and then though, things aren’t so simple.
If your name has changed over the years by marriage or any other reason, this can make it difficult to order records. Medical records sometimes change ownership, which can often complicate getting records.
And while most disability applications only go back a year or two for filing, sometimes it becomes necessary to obtain much older records. This can be extremely challenging, if not impossible, as most medical providers destroy patient records after about 10 years.
In some cases, no matter how many times we send requests, some offices simply ignore us. In these situations, we can request subpoenas from the Social Security Administration to obtain these records. Often, Social Security has more luck obtaining these records directly.
In rare instances, your attorney may ask for your assistance to obtain records if you already have copies. Sometimes, doctor’s offices are simply more responsive to requests from their patients than an attorney.
And every once in awhile, no matter what an attorney or Social Security does, we simply may not be able to get medical records. In these situations, your attorney may request a hearing where a medical doctor testifies to essentially fill in the gaps about your medical history. This also might be grounds for appeal in the event of an unfavorable decision.