I previously wrote about how to read Social Security’s (previously non-encrypted) cd disks and several articles on how to find information with the Social Security files.
Since Social Security has started provided encrypted Social Security exhibit CDs, many people contacting my office have not been able to access their files. The Social Security encrypted disks are keeping claimants from accessing their data.
First, you have to be running Microsoft Windows. Fortunately, some early concerns about having the encryption system only working in Windows Vista seem to be unfounded. I have been able to access the encryption system in Windows 7. However, if you are using a Mac (like I am) or Linux, you are out of luck unless you virtualize a Windows system.
Let’s go through how to get at those file!
When you open the Social Security cd in your file explorer, you will see a window like this.
Double click on the “PME” icon and you will see the following dialog:
In the first box, titled “account name,” enter “ssa”. Do not capitalize or enter the quotation marks. According to Social Security, the account name stays the same for all disks sent to claimants or attorneys.
The “password” is first 4 letters of the claimant’s first name (all lowercase), followed by a “#” and the last 4 numbers of the claimant’s Social Security Number. Make sure not to capitalize the first name!
So, for John Smith, SSN 123-45-6789, the password is john#6789
If the first name is less than four characters long, add #’s until you have 4 characters for the first name.
For Tom Jones, SSN 987-65-4321, the password is tom##4321
For Al Jackson, SSN 567-89-1234, the password is al###1234
If the password does not want to work, try the following:
- Make sure you are not capitalizing either the account name or the password.
- If you have to add #’s to make the first name 4 characters long, don’t forget to add the extra # which has to be between the 4 characters of the first name and the last 4 digits of the SSN.
- If you reviewing a cd on a child’s claim, make sure you are using the child’s first name.
For attorneys, I recommend signing up for electronic access to the Social Security files through the ERE (Electronic Records Express) system. Not only can you access files instantly (including case documents which have not yet been made part of the exhibit file), you can download the file either in the web format previously available on the Social Security CDs, or as a PDF. Either format in unencrypted which means you do not have to jump through hoops to access case files, and you can review exhibit files on Mac or Linux systems.
Another nice feature is the ability to download individual files instantly. If there is a downside, it is that if you want to download the entire file (either as a zip file or a PDF) you have to request the download, which is then queued up. You are notified by when the file is available for download. In the first couple of months using the new system, files are ready in an hour or two on business days, and almost immediately on weekends. We will have to see if processing times increase as more lawyers come on line and begin to use the ERE system to access case files.