Avoid bad information, call the right Social Security office!

Every once in a while I get a panicked call from a client:

I called Social Security about my case.

They don’t show an appeal was filed. What happened?!

I ask which Social Security office they called: the local Social Security office, the appeals office (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review – ODAR), or the toll free Social Security 800 number?

Even though all Social Security information about a case should be available to any person you speak to at Social Security, in practice, this does not always work. Even though Social Security does not mean to panic you, misleading or just plain wrong information is sometimes given out.

If you want to avoid the risk of getting incorrect information, you have to contact the right Social Security office with your questions.    

How do I know who to contact?

Here is a quick guide on which Social Security office to contact:

  • If you have recently applied, your file is most likely at either your local Social Security office, or at your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office.
  • If you have been denied, but have not yet appealed, your file has most likely returned from DDS back to your local Social Security office.
  • If you have been denied, and have filed your appeal, your file may either be at the your local Social Security office, or at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).  Ultimately, the file will be at ODAR to prepare your case for your hearing, but in the first 30 to 60 days after filing the appeal, the file could be at either location.  Call your local office and then the ODAR office (your local office will have their phone number if you do not).
  • If you have appealed and received letter from ODAR confirming the appeal, your file is at the ODAR office being prepared for your hearing.
  • If you have had your hearing but have not received a decision, your case is still being handled by the ODAR office (even if the case file may be out of the office with a decision writer).
  • If you have already received a hearing decision, your file is going back to your local Social Security office.
  • If you have won and are waiting for your benefits to start, your claim may be processed by either your local Social Security office (for SSI benefits) or a regional payment center (for Disability Insurance benefits).  In either case, contact the local Social Security office.
The general rule is if you are in doubt, contact your local office.  If you are working with a lawyer/attorney, call them and they can check the status of the case, or if you prefer, give you the telephone number of the office where your file is located.