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Getting Medical Records from a VA Hospital

Many claimants who have applied for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are veterans and have been receiving medical care from a Veteran’s hospital. Their concern, however, is how to obtain their medical records from the VA hospital and whether this will impact their SSI or SSDI claim.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240"]VA Nurse Accessing Electronic Medical Records VA Nurse Accessing Electronic Medical Records (Photo credit: MC4 Army)[/caption]

First, it is important to note that claimants are not responsible for retrieving their own medical records; the Social Security Administration will do this for them. So unless the claimant has copies of their recent medical files and wants to give the SSA this information to expedite the processing of their SSI or SSDI claim, the only information a claimant must provide to the SSA about their medical treatment is their treating sources names, phone numbers, dates of treatment and their addresses.

How do VA medical records differ from other medical records?


There are a few good things about veteran’s hospitals. The main benefit for SSI and SSDI claimants who are treated within the VA system is that in the past the medical records for the claimant were generally found at the last hospital where the VA was treated. This could change however, as the VA hospital continues their transition from handwritten medical records to computer-based medical records.

The consolidation of medical records within the VA hospital system is great news not only for the SSA but also disability lawyers. If a claimants medical records are at one location this can dramatically reduce the amount of time it can take for the SSA to request them (there is no longer the need to query every single doctor or hospital but instead the medical record request can be made to one central location).

Now, let’s talk about some of the negatives. The VA medical records several years back were all handwritten, and according to many sources, they were often difficult to read, making them almost completely irrelevant. I would argue this is not just a VA problem but an issue throughout medical community. I have looked at hundreds of pages of medical records that were illegible and therefore worthless.

Also, in the past the VA doctors were not allowed to complete forms or write letters for SSA disability claims. Now, however, VA regulations may allow a doctor to help claimants by completing certain types of disability documents for a SSI or SSDI claimant.

So, in conclusion, having your medical records from a VA hospital should not negatively impact your claim.

Can a claimant get SSDI and VA Disability Benefits?


One of our most common questions on our disability forum is whether a claimant can get SSDI and VA disability benefits. The answer is yes, assuming they meet the nonmedical criteria of SSDI benefits. Veterans who have sufficient work credits, whose condition is considered severe and who cannot work for at least 12 continuous months may qualify for SSDI benefits and VA benefits.

Will it help that the claimant has been rated disabled by the VA? Not necessarily. The SSA does not use the same criteria for determining disability as the VA. The main difference is the SSA does not award partial disability benefits. So, for instance, if you have for example a 35% disability rating from the VA it is likely that the SSA would decide you are not 100% disabled and determine that you may be able to continue to perform substantial gainful activity.
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