It’s not uncommon for claimants to wait until the day of their Social Security hearing to submit their medical records.
This is a serious and costly mistake!
With average wait times of 15 to 18 months, there is plenty of time to get your records in.
So, why do people leave it for the last minute? And why is that a mistake?
Most Claimants Assume that Social Security is Still Ordering Records on their Behalf
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At the lower stage, Social Security will order records directly from your doctors. Most claimants don’t have to worry about submitting records for their claim at this stage.
But when your case is at the hearing level, Social Security will no longer do so.
Judges can order your records. However, they rarely do it.
The claimant (or the attorney) is then responsible to update the records that the judge will look at to make a decision.
If you fail to provide updated records prior to your hearing, you risk having a huge “gap” in treatment records that could otherwise help you win your case.
It is not uncommon for a case to be denied at the hearing level because of “lack of treatment“. Even though the claimant never missed one appointment during that waiting period until the hearing.
The reason is simple: No records were submitted during that period and the judge is “stuck” having to decide the case based on the records available.
Most of these records will be “outdated” simply because of the length of time since the last treating appointment (submitted or ordered at the lower level) and the hearing date.
Don’t make that mistake!
In fact, even at the lower level, go ahead and order records yourself. Learn more about Cost Effective Ways to Order Your Medical Records ⇐here.
There are many reasons why this is a good idea:
- You will have an idea of how your medical records look like and what your doctors are saying EARLIER in the process. The sooner you know what your records are saying, the sooner you will be able to fix them if your doctors are not reporting your impairments properly. Check out my post about the Importance of Medical Records and How to fix your medical records to win your case.
- If you are looking for an attorney to represent you, having your records on hand will make it easy to get an attorney to look at your case quicker. Social Security will not share your info with an attorney if your case is at the lower level. At the hearing stage, the attorney will only have access to your file if he is already representing you but not before.
- You can submit your records too, in case the “local office” does a poor job at collecting your records. This is very helpful if your medical providers are VA doctors. It can take “ages” to get those records, even if they are ordered by Social Security. If one government agency is slow, imagine two of them trying to work together!
Not good at all!
Here’s Why You Don’t Want to Leave it to the Last Minute:
When judges prepare for a hearing, they usually prepare days, sometimes weeks in advance. Judges will usually study the file and make notes of the things they want to address at the hearing. Some of these are usually questions regarding income or certain treatment mentioned in the records but without a follow-up.
Other times judges want to address any issues with illegal drugs, alcohol or anything that leaves questions in the mind of the judge to see if you deserve disability benefits.
That’s why you want to submit your records long before the hearing.
You want to give your judge a chance to “digest” your medical records when your entire file is “fresh” in his or her mind. If you leave your submission for the last minute, your judge may not have the chance to read it.
What if there is something very important or life changing in those records and the judge ignored it because it wasn’t in front of him when he was studying your file?
Judges are very busy people. And when they looked at your file prior to the hearing, they may have “made up” their mind already. By the time you have your hearing, it may be difficult to change the mind of your judge. Even if you submitted a “slam dunk” piece of evidence.
Sure, they are required to read your entire file. But when they are holding several hearings a day, a week or a year, it may be difficult to keep all the facts straight.
The Decision Writer
Still connected to the reason above is the fact that most judges don’t have time to write their own decisions. So, most likely, your file will be handed over to a “decision writer” (usually an attorney whose job is to write decisions).
Since your judge studies the file before the hearing and most times has his mind set on the decision, the judge will then hand over his hearing notes to the decision writer to, well, write the decision according to what the judge wants to do with the case. Either award, give a partially favorable or an unfavorable decision.
Then it’s up to the writer to work the facts of the case to “make the decision work” with the final intent of the judge.
Once again, this is why you want to submit your medical records early on up until the latest you can possibly get PRIOR to the hearing. You want to give the judge a chance for him or her to learn everything about your case, ahead of time!
Submitting Your Records Late Will Have Dire Consequences Later
Let’s say you submitted all your medical records for the entire year on the day of the hearing. The judge was only aware of the medical records from the previous year before those records. Which means that there was a “gap” in treatment in his mind.
The judge will see this “gap” as lack of medical treatment and will “pre-judge” your case as one to deny because he believes there was no treatment for a whole year!
Now, on the day of the hearing, the judge had already made up his mind and despite asking questions and you telling him how hard your life is with your impairments, he already wants to deny you.
You may bring medical records to that hearing that will “cover” that period the judge believed there was “no treatment” (simply because no records were available to him earlier).
But unless you get a very nice judge, most likely he will not look at these new records and he will send them to the decision writer with instructions to write a “denial”.
Worse, say you were denied and now you want to appeal your case to the Appeal’s Council.
Now imagine that the “new records” were submitted on the day of the hearing and technically the judge was supposed to look at those records prior to issuing a decision. Yet most decisions cannot possibly mention every single record submitted.
And if the judge (or decision writer) only included evidence in the decision that supports the denial, most likely you will see a denial at the Appeal’s Council level too. The judge’s mistake of not reading those later records is somehow “disguised” as being included in that decision even though the judge never looked at them.
You DO NOT want that!!
So pretty please, don’t wait until the last minute to send those records to the hearing office.
You don’t even need a judge assigned to the case to submit evidence. The hearing office will readily take any evidence coming in and they will add them to your file at any time.
You have a long wait after requesting a hearing. Use this time to not only gather your records but also improve them. So that by the time you get to your hearing, your file is complete.
Or as complete as it can be.
Also during the wait, you should learn and understand what your records are saying so that you don’t have any surprises like, your doctor writing “damaging” comments on your records. Or your exams are not really showing severity.
Try to always be on top of your medical treatment.
You want to be able to fix your records if there are problems or even change doctors early on so when you reach the hearing date you have full evidentiary support for your disability.
Courses by Realtactics4disabilityclaims.com
If you wish to learn how to read your medical records like a pro, I created a course called Medical Records Reading 101 just for that purpose. For only $9.99 you will learn how to read your records, how to organize them and how to create a timeline so you never lose track of your treatment.
When it’s time for your hearing, you will have everything properly organized. And during the time you are waiting for your hearing date, you will be able to make corrections and get full support for your disability by getting your doctors to write the correct information on your records. Simply click on the image below and you will be directed to the course page:
Other courses by Realtactics4disabilityclaims.com
If you were denied disability and you are looking to appeal with “better” evidence, I created a course on how to use a Residual Functional Capacity Report to add to your medical records. This is a form you can take to your doctor to complete in support of your claim. And you can submit it to your file in your next appeal or hearing.
The course includes forms for physical or mental impairments and instructions on how to ask your doctor to complete them. You can take a “free sneak peek” to see if this course is for you. Click on the image below and you will be directed to the course page:
Also, if you are looking to file for disability and don’t know where to start, I created a course called the “5 Day File your Disability Claim” Guide where I teach you every step you should take to file your claim.
Simply click on the image below and it will take you directly to the course page. Take a “free sneak peek” of the first lesson to see if this course is for you.
You know the blog, now you can take one step further and learn the process of preparing and filing your claim.
As a thank you, you will receive a Nifty disability checklist where you can write down all your medical information to keep track of your case.
Until next time,