Q & A: What rules govern the confidentiality of MY medical records?
Posted Jan 08 2010 4:30pm
Hello and welcome to the 5th installment of my Q & A series, which is designed to cover some of the more elusive topics associated with the Social Security Disability claims process. In this post, I answer a question regarding the confidentiality of a Social Security Disability claimant's medical records.
I recently received a denial following my initial disability application. I would like to review all of the evidence, both medical and other, that was considered in determining my claim. Is this a possibility? Further, is this information available to the public for review and dissemination? In essence, what rules govern confidentiality of SSA disability records?
To begin with, I am here to tell you that you can feel at ease about your SSA records. Any information that was provided by you, as well as any additional information obtained by the SSA that is part of your claim, is protected under the Privacy Act, one of two separate and distinct laws that govern Federal agencies.
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Federal agencies are required to provide the public with access to their files and records. However, this particular Act (FOIA) is not applicable to records maintained by the SSA. The second law, the Privacy Act, governs records such as medical evidence and other supporting documents retained by the SSA during your claim. The Privacy Act permits you only or your designated representative the opportunity to examine all records pertaining to you. This means that you may request to review all the medical documentation or other evidence that was used to evaluate your claim for disability. While you and/or your representative are provided with this opportunity, members of the public are not. Simply stated, your information is not available to the public for any type of review or dissemination.
It is important to note, however, that the SSA does reserve the right to determine whether the release of information could potentially have an adverse effect on you. If it is determined that the potential negative effects outweigh any probative value, the information requested will only be released to your authorized representative, that individual you designated in your initial application or later in writing. This is rare, however, and only applies in extreme circumstances.
One final note: Now that the SSA has converted most it's disability case files into electronic format, it is likely that you will be sent a CD containing your information/records once you request access to your records. Here at my practice, we receive CDs containing our clients' case files a few weeks or months prior to the hearing. We are now able to see everything in our clients' files just by referring to the CD, and this is saving us from having to finger through large files to find what we need! Hopefully you will find this convenient as well, in the event that you end up requesting that SSA furnish you with your claim records.
Happy Friday, be sure to tune in next week for Installment 6 of my Q & A Series.