What is in a Social Security file?

Just before your Social Security hearing, you will be given a cd and pointed at a computer. If you ask, someone may help you load up the disk and get you to a screen that looks like this:

Ok, now what?

What is all this stuff and what do I do with it?

Social Security uses electronic case files. The image above is the “Exhibit List Index” which may automatically come up when you insert the disk into the computer (if it does not, you may have to browse to your cd and double click “index.html” If in doubt, just ask your kids.

The Exhibit List Index is a “table of contents” for the documents in the file.

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In the above image, you can see there are 4 exhibits in the “B” part of the file.  The first one, 1B is a request for hearing and that document is 5 pages long. By clicking on any link (blue underlined text) you will be taken to that exhibit.

I know how to move around in the exhibit file, but I don’t know what I am looking at!

Ok. The file is divided into different sections, labeled A through F. Here is what you can find inside each section.

  • Section “A” contains the transmittal sheets, which provide a quick overview of your case. These are pretty cryptic if you are not familiar with them. However, they do provide one critical piece of information: right at the top to the left of your Social Security Number there is a block for your “Filing Date.”  This is your Protected Filing Date.
  • Section “B” covers the decisions on the case, or more importantly the denials. If you need to find the official documents in the case (denials, requests for hearing, fee agreements, appointment of representative forms, notice of hearings etc) this is where they are.
  • Section “D” covers most of the forms that your filled out for Social Security and the non-medical evidence. This includes all the forms Social Security has you fill out, and your earnings records. This also includes school records such as grades, IEPs, 504 plans, teacher questionnaires, and all other school records.
  • Section “F” has all of the medical records in your case. This includes the reports of the doctors Social Security sent you to (you really need to review this) and the reports from any technicians who completed forms describing what you can and cannot do.

What do you do with all of this … stuff? Well, you read it. Personally, I like to do a cover-to-cover review of the file.

However, if you have never read a file before, you may give up before you get to the critical stuff (like the medical records all the way in the back of the file). My next series of articles will deal with how to review a Social Security exhibit file.

Keep in mind that there are some regional differences in how Social Security organizes the files. I have seen files from other states that had records in different places. Some states try to speed up the processing of cases by putting all the medical records into just one “F” exhibit. You end up with just a single description, “1F Medical Records 608 pages.” This is fairly useless and requires going through the exhibit and figuring out exactly what records are there.