Monday, June 2, 2014

Tip of the Week: Keep Your CD-ROM or Request One

The Social Security Administration (SSA) keeps most of its disability claim files in electronic form.  (There are very few exceptions...  Once in a while, a claimant has a paper file.)  This gives the SSA the ability to create CD-ROMS with a claimant's file.  If you are representing yourself in a social security case, you must remember to ask for a copy of your file in CD-ROM format.  Moreover, if the SSA provides you with a disc, you must never loose it.  Having a copy of your files on disc can be very convenient when looking for an attorney, preparing for your hearing or, when you need to a appeal a judge's decision to the Appeals Council.   
At the hearing level, claimants are provided with a CD-ROM by staff employees.  It is important not to throw away the disc.  Keep the disc even if you get a favorable decision.  If your case is denied, the CD-ROM will be needed by any Social Security Disability lawyer who you may ask to evaluate the viability of an appeal.  If you get a favorable decision, you may also need the disc to be able to protect your benefits when the SSA reviews your case.  Moreover, I find that having a complete disc of your SSDI case can be extremely helpful in cases where the claimant also has a pending long term disability claim with a private insurance company.
Opening and reading these discs can be tricky.  They work in most Windows PCs.  However, in many instances the discs are encrypted in order to protect a claimant's privacy.  To open an encrypted file you usually need to write "ssa" in the space that says: "account name".  Your password to open the disc is usually the first four letters of the claimant's first name followed by a pound sign (#) and the last four digits of his or her social security number.
Another reason why you might want to get your disc it to make sure that all the evidence pertaining to your case has been submitted  to the SSA.  Very often, doctor's records are missing or improperly filed.  I have even seen situations where a claimant's records are mixed in with somebody else's.