How to view Social Security’s new encrypted CD disks

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.

Social Security encrypted cdTomasz Stasiuk | Social Security Insider

Double click on the “PME” icon and you will see the following dialog:

Social Security encrypted cd dialogTomasz Stasiuk | Social Security Insider

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:

  1. Make sure you are not capitalizing either the account name or the password.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Published by

Tomasz Stasiuk

Disability and Estate Planning Attorney - Visit me at www.StasiukFirm.com.

  • DB

    Have you tried accessing files through a virtual computer on a Mac? I have virtualized my Mac but I’m still having trouble accessing the files. They are in Tiff format which windows seems to not recognize.

    • http://www.Planet10Tech.com TomaszStasiuk

      Yup, that’s how I do it. I run Win 7 under VMWare Fusion, unencrypt the disc and them move the files over to the Mac partition. 

  • jon consadene

    Thank you so much for posting this. I do have a question. I did everything you said for one of the DVD and it says that I have exceeded my attempts.  Is there a way around this to be able to view the files.  Thanks, Jon

    • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

      I don’t have a firm answer on this. Have you tried, rebooting the system and trying again? The Roy from “It Crowd” solution: http://youtu.be/nn2FB1P_Mn8

  • Kerrose523

    what are these cds for? is is like a investigation or just your ss records thanks

    • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

      The cds contain the information SSA has on a particular disability claim. This included medical records, forms, and Social Security’s own analysis. So, if you are applying for disability benefits, you want to review the file to see what Social Security has, determine what needs to be updated, and get an idea of what you may need to overcome when the case goes to hearing.

  • LVelasco

    i dont know how to log in can i get some help please ?

    • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

      Are you using “ssa” as the account name, and the first 4 letters of your first name followed by a “#” and the last 4 number of your SSN, for the password?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.brenot.9 Mike Brenot

    I have a cd from ssi in Washington
    the encryption software is different than the one I have on my cd
    it just ask for the password
    im running Win 7 64bit

    • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

      I’ve seen that sometimes. Try the password by itself: the first 4 letters of the claimant’s first name (all lowercase), followed by a “#” and the last 4 numbers of the Social Security Number.

  • jeri

    we received our disc today….my husband has only a letter for a first name. So I did f####and last 4 of ss.does not work

    • http://www.stasiukfirm.com/ TomaszStasiuk

      Hi Jeri,

      It sounds like you a doing it right.

      A couple things to try are to make sure “ssa” is entered for the username, and to make sure there is a “#” between the first 4 of the user name and the last 3 of the SSN. Basically, if adding extra “#” because the first name is less than 4 characters, it is important to remember to also add the “#” which goes in between. Put another way, check that 9 characters are being entered.

      If it still does not work, give SSA a call: 1-800-772-1213.

      Good luck, Jeri!

  • MCollege

    My local SSA did not tell me how to open the file when I picked up the disk in person nor when I called to tell them I couldn’t open! Thank you for providing this information!