One headache you may face when applying for Social Security disability benefits is the need to supply a tremendous amount of medical records documenting your disability. Both old and new records are reviewed when your case is evaluated. Old records explain to the claims specialists when you became disabled, your prescribed medications and the effectiveness of the medications. New records prove that you are still disabled and that your disability is severe enough to warrant SSDI or SSI benefits.
To gather all your medical evidence, you will need to make endless telephone calls to medical records departments and you can anticipate the arrival of a lot of paper. Here are some strategies to help you keep it all organized:
- Keep a desk calendar. Buy a paper desk calendar that has room to write information for each date. Use it only for items that relate to your Social Security disability case. Write down every appointment, every deadline, and every Next Step (discussed below) on your calendar. Check your calendar every morning.
Keep a telephone log and keep track of “Next Steps”. Buy a medium sized spiral bound notebook and use it only to record calls you make or calls you receive with respect to your Social Security disability case. Every time you make a telephone call, note the date, the time, the name of the person (or persons) you speak to, the name of the doctor’s office or agency, the telephone number, the reason for your call and the result of your call. If you need to check back or do something as a result of you call, that is a “Next Step”. Enter each Next Step on your desk calendar at the appropriate date.
Sample entry: “10/11; 8:30 a.m.: 555-1212; spoke with Teresa at Medical Records, Inc. and requested they send me Dr. Fisher’s records for 2006. She said it would take a week to get them.”
Enter this Next Step on your calendar on the date blank for 10/18: “Check to see if Dr. Fisher’s records for 2006 received; if not call Teresa at Medical Records 555-1212”
- Keep a three ring notebook or an accordion file for medical records. You can organize your notebook or file by doctors, by date of treatment, or by condition treated. You may have a separate notebook or file for each medical condition or for each doctor. The important thing is to put every piece of paper you receive into the notebook in the appropriate place the day you receive it. Keep all your Social Security medical information in a dedicated drawer or file cabinet. This will save you hours of frustration you might otherwise face hunting for misplaced information. If you hire an advocate, it is a good idea to make copies of all the information you give to your advocate for safekeeping.
- Keep a correspondence file or notebook. Put all the correspondence you receive, in date order, in your file or notebook. You may wish to keep one file for all correspondence, or to keep separate files for correspondence from i) your attorney, ii) the Social Security office, iii) your doctors, and iv) all other correspondence. Keep your files or notebooks in one place all the time and be sure to add correspondence to them as it arrives. Be sure your letters are secure in the notebooks. It is awfully discouraging to drop a file or notebook and watch three months’ worth of correspondence scatter over the floor.
Once you get in the habit of being organized, it is easy to do. The benefits are tremendous in terms of keeping your frustration level low.