How to review your Social Security file before your hearing

My last article talked about why it is so important to review your Social Security exhibit file.

But how do I get a copy of my Social Security file?

If you already have a hearing scheduled, Social Security will tell you in the Notice of Hearing that you should arrive thirty minutes before your hearing and you will then have a chance to review your file.

However, 30 minutes is NOT enough time to review your file. If you are like most people, you have never seen a Social Security file. If you simply start at the beginning of your file, your case may be called before you even get to your medical records.

Hint: the medical records are kept in the very back of the exhibit file in the “F” section.

Instead of a paper file, your case may be kept in an electronic format. If so, you will be handed a cd and pointed at a computer.

There is a better way to review your file.

Whether you have a paper file or an electronic file, you can request to review your file before your hearing. I, personally, recommend reviewing your file once your have appealed the initial denial and your file has been transferred to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).

Once your file is transferred to an ODAR, you will receive a letter confirming the receipt of your appeal. This is the letter that tells you that you will notified 20 days before the hearing.

Usually in the top right corner you will find the ODAR address and telephone number. Just call the number and ask the receptionist how you can either get a copy of your file, or how your can review your file at the ODAR office.

If you have a paper file, the ODAR staff will schedule a time when you can come in and either review or photocopy the file.

Tip: if you request to copy the file, it is a good idea to bring your own copy paper, two reams should be enough. Some offices will tell you this. If they forget and they do not have any paper (and you did not bring your own), you may need to reschedule your appointment.

Note: if the file has been permanently moved to an out-of-state ODAR office, that office should be willing to copy your file and mail it to you. After all, how are you supposed to prove your case, if you do not have a chance to see what Social Security has in your file?

If your case is an electronic case file, ODAR will probably send you a copy of your file on CD. The CD contains an electronic version of everything in your case file. If you have a computer, viewing the exhibit file may be as simple as putting the disk in your computer. An internet browser should pop up displaying all the sections of the case file. You can then click on each exhibit to see what it contains.

Note: Even though you view the exhibit file through an internet browser, you do not need internet access to view the exhibit file.

If you do not have a computer, you may be able to view the file at your local library, or you can schedule time to view the file at the ODAR office on one of their public computers.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to review the file and bring a notepad to jot down any questions you have.

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Disclaimer: This is NOT legal advice. This site provides general information about Social Security disability cases in Colorado. To discuss your particular circumstances, please contact a lawyer in your area. Please review the full disclaimer .

About Tomasz Stasiuk

Tomasz Stasiuk is a Colorado Springs Social Security disability lawyer and the founding attorney of the Stasiuk Firm - a law firm specializing in Social Security disability cases in Colorado. Follow Tomasz Stasiuk on Google and Twitter

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  • Michael G Woods

    I cannot get a hearing, it has been 1 year since I applied. Now I am told to contact ODAR. I do not have a number. I am homeless and having someone look this up for me. Can you help me, I am sick and unable to work, Drew SSI for 13 years, spent 2 years in carceration and now cannot get SSI back and am sicker than I was then. I can be reached at 706-624-4361 or 770-548-5455. This is my brothers residence.Ask for Michael Woods

  • http://www.SocialSecurityInsider.com/ TomaszStasiuk

    Here a great way of finding your local Social Security office:

    https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp

  • Michael G Woods

    I cannot get a hearing, it has been 1 year since I applied. Now I am told to contact ODAR. I do not have a number. I am homeless and having someone look this up for me. Can you help me, I am sick and unable to work, Drew SSI for 13 years, spent 2 years in carceration and now cannot get SSI back and am sicker than I was then. I can be reached at 706-624-4361 or 770-548-5455. This is my brothers residence.Ask for Michael Woods

  • Michael G Woods

    My name is Michael Woods, I drew SSI for 13 years then was incarcerated and cannot get it started back. I have waited 1 year since applying again and cannot get a hearing. I am sick and homeless, unable to work. Can you help me? I can be reached at my brothers phone 706-624-4361 or 770-548-5455. Please give me some information. Thank you.

  • http://www.ColoradoSocialSecurityLaw.com TomaszStasiuk

    Here a great way of finding your local Social Security office:

    https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp

  • Pingback: Don't go to your hearing with out of date medical records! | Colorado Social Security Law

  • N J

    Once I slogged through the records received by SSA, I was amazed! Not only were there doctors comments that minimized my problems (which I then knew I would have to counteract with additional supportive evidence), but I discovered that the MOST CRUCIAL records had never been received or even ordered! No wonder I was turned down.

    At that point I knew I needed to order the missing records myself–and the new ones from recent months–instead of relying on the SSA bureaucratic machine. A week before my hearing, I discovered the most recent records had still not been sent by the clinic. I knew I needed to strengthen my case, quick.

    I called a therapist I had seen the year before from that clinic and asked her to pull and copy the records &/or provide me a letter summarizing her own knowledge of my conditions for me to hand carry into the hearing. She met me before the clinic opened to give me the letter the morning of my hearing. It was poorly written and full of inaccuracies, but it was from a “professional”. Once the judge read the letter, his whole attitude turned around, and he almost seemed to be helping me win my case! (And he had been mean and nasty the first time I appeared without counsel.)

    The point is…find out what SSA knows about your case. Don’t assume:

    a) they have all your records (there’s probably some missing), and
    b) that your records support your case (your doctors may have acted sympathetic or supportive to your face, but written wishy-washy or dismissive comments in your file!)

    And if you’re not up for all this–get an attorney or someone who is able to do this for you!

  • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

    Going through the file is one of the first things we do with the person applying for Social Security benefits. Until you SEE what is in the file, you have NO IDEA what records SSA may have or may be missing.

    Reviewing the file is a critical step in preparing a case!

    It sounds like you did a great job advocating for yourself! Give yourself a pat on the back!

  • Pingback: How to view Social Security’s new encrypted disks | Colorado Social Security Law

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