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SSA- Can I get my disability file?

If you are one of the millions of applicants who has filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) you may be in a holding pattern waiting to hear from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Unfortunately, it can take 90 to 120 days for the SSA to make their initial disability decision, and up to 70% of the initial disability applications are denied.

If you are denied, you will have 60 days from the date of the denial letter to request your Reconsideration (which is the first step in the disability appeals process in most parts of the country). It can take the SSA another 30 to 90 days to make their decision at the Reconsideration level.  Unfortunately, up to 80% of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income claimants are denied a second time.

If your case is denied at the Reconsideration level you will have another 60 days to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. It is at this level that many SSDI or SSI claimants seek legal help from a disability lawyer.

Preparing for your Disability Hearing

SSDI or SSI applicants who have hired a disability lawyer can rely on their disability lawyer to request their disability file and begin to prepare their case for the administrative hearing. If you decide not to seek legal help you will need to take some steps to ensure you are ready for the disability hearing. Keep in mind, the hearing will be your best chance to win SSI and SSDI benefits.

The good and bad news is that it can take up to one year to get an Administrative hearing. Although this is a very long time to wait for SSDI or SSI benefits, the good news is that you will have plenty of time to take the necessary steps to prepare for the hearing.

The very first step you need to take is to request your disability file from the SSA and make sure you have it for the hearing. The most important thing is to verify that your disability file contains all the relevant information the Administrative Law Judge willeed to make your disability decision.

Information the judge will need includes proof of your diagnosis, information about your symptoms, proof your condition will last for at least 12 continuous months, specific information about your work limitations (for example, a residual capacity form completed by your doctor can be helpful to your case), and all medical evidence to substantiate your case.

Keep in mind, there may be a “jobs expert” at your hearing who will identify jobs they believe that you can perform. Be sure that you have evidence in your file that clearly states the limitations you have to perform work. For more information about your hearing review our blog,  What Happens at an Administrative Hearing?

Requesting your SSA Disability File

The SSA has been automating disability files over the last several years. There is generally three ways to request your disability file: online, via phone or via mail.

  1. View the disability file online - Some claimants will be able to log onto the SSA website at and view some of their disability records online.

  2. Contact the SSA by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213. An automated service is available 24 hours a day and operators can be reached for more complex requests from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday.

  3. Visit the SSA office and make your request in-person. There is an office locator link on the main SSA webpage where you can locate the closest office in your area. Be sure to bring the proper identification with you to the office. It may also be beneficial to make an appointment prior to your visit. You may not be able to take the file with you and if it is sent to you allow two weeks for processing.

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