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The Social Security Administration's Duty to Develop the Record

During many of my initial interviews with potential Social Security Disability clients, I sometimes hear frustrated people say, “I told the Social Security Administration (SSA) about all my treating doctors, but they didn’t get records from half the doctors that I mentioned.” Sound familiar?

I can understand how people applying for disability benefits can become frustrated in these situations, especially after doing the “legwork” for SSA and letting them know which medical sources to order from, only to see SSA fail to follow through on its obligations.

SSA's Duty to develop the medical record

Social Security has specific guidelines in place for obtaining medical records on behalf of a disability benefits applicant. Upon reading these guidelines, it appears as if SSA will make a diligent effort to make sure it retrieves any important medical information. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Agency policy (Chapter 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations sections 404.1512 & 416.912) requires SSA to order the disability claimant’s medical records in order to “develop” the claimant’s medical history for the past year prior to the application. SSA policy also requires SSA to make “every reasonable effort” to get the claimant’s medical records, which in some cases means making a follow-up call to treating medical providers.

While in theory, it sounds like SSA is on the ball with getting a claimant’s medical records, in practice, things don’t work out this way. SSA often considers the record “developed" when the reviewer of the disability claim feels “confident to make a decision” (whether its granting disability benefits or denying them). Obviously, the reviewer has a lot of room to decide when any efforts to get medical records are “good enough."

The important thing to remember here: SSA has to make an effort to obtain medical records, but there’s no guarantee that SSA will actually get any medical records from the applicant/claimant’s treating medical doctors.

Need Help With SSA?

Because SSA is often backlogged and inundated with applications, the possibility of their not developing your medical record does exist. If you feel that this is the case, or you simply don't want risk the hassle of doing the work for them only to have it ignored, you can call us for help. The disability attorneys at Keller & Keller will make every effort to help ensure that all of your medical records have been submitted to SSA. 

We offer every disability claimant a Zero Fee Guarantee, meaning you'll never pay for a consultation and the only way our attorneys receive money for their legal services is if you receive disability benefits.

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