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.