You’re right, medical evidence is CRTICAL to winning a disability case!
But how do you get it to SSA or your attorney? How much is needed? What periods of time should be included? Why can’t SSA or your attorney simply find all this for you?
Great questions, with some simple answers:
First, getting medical records to SSA or your attorney is pretty simple, but can take some time. If you are handling your own case, you need to ask your medical providers to give you your medical records. Sometimes this can be in person or over the phone, but nearly always requires a signature of some kind to allow the provider to release the records to you. If you are represented by an attorney, they will have you sign releases and gather all the records on your behalf. The rules on how quickly a provider has to release records vary from state to state, so it is helpful to have an attorney that knows these rules and can use them to your claim’s advantage.
Second and third, how much medical evidence is needed? Well, in most cases, records going back a year or so before you stopped working are sufficient. If you stopped working because of a back injury, gathering records from 30 years ago related to a knee injury that is fully healed is not helpful and only incurs more costs. Speak with your attorney to understand how far back in time to gather medical evidence.
Finally, many claimants ask attorneys to just “go look up my medical records”. This would be an ideal ability to have, however, there is no centrally located online location where medical records are kept. Medical providers use a variety of different records programs and they do not overlap. This means that there is no database to search and find a person’s entire medical history, including what doctors they saw and when. This means that your attorney MUST rely mainly on YOU as the source of information.
Keep the best records you can once you file a claim, and keep in good contact with your attorney, who will gather any medical records relevant to your case once you share with them where to find it!