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What should I do to prepare for my Social Security Disability hearing?

A: In most cases, the Social Security Administration will not gather additional records on your behalf once your claim has been sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (also known as ODAR or the Office of Hearings and Appeals). Your case will sit at the ODAR until it is assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and scheduled for a hearing.


Though this scenario is rare, your case may be reviewed by a staff representative at the ODAR who decides to develop your case further. In other words, the staff representative will work to gather your most recent medical records in an attempt to approve your claim with an on-the-record decision. 


Because medical evidence is the most critical aspect of any disability claim, it is imperative that prior to your hearing you gather your most recent medical records and submit them to the appropriate ODAR. Otherwise the judge will base his/her decision on the records in your file which in some instances might be over a year old. (Tip: Keep copies of what you’ve submitted to ODAR for your records and confirm that they’ve received every page you’ve submitted).


Before you lose your shirt requesting copies of all your medical records from all of your doctors, exercise your right to review your file. You’re going to review your file to determine where the Social Security Administration left off. Meaning, look for the date of the last record they requested and added to your file. Next, only request from your doctors the medical records that will bring your file up-to-date.


It would also be helpful if you could obtain detailed statements from your doctors demonstrating their support of your disability claim. These statements should explicitly explain why you cannot work. An extremely helpful form your doctors can complete is the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) questionnaire. Completed RFCs should also be submitted to the appropriate ODAR. (Again, keep copies for yourself and confirm that the ODAR received them).