The Social Security hearing office is called ODAR, which stands for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. There is no longer any doubt that ODAR has taken steps that reduce the number of on-the-records that get issued. Just as ODAR’s approval rates have decreased, so too have the number of OTRs ODAR approves.
Informal discussions with senior personnel at a local ODAR indicated that OTRs will no longer be approved unless there are many medical exhibits. I disregarded those assertions because I found it hard to believe that ODAR would elevate form over substance. For example, I could not believe that separating medical tests, and reports from treatment records from one medical source into multiple exhibits could make a difference. I may have been wrong.
I represent a 49 year old former nurse with back problems whose Social Security Disability (“SSD”) claim was just approved. As a nurse, the claimant was very assiduous about providing us with her medical records each time she underwent a procedure or saw a physician. Instead of amassing and submitting all evidence from a particular treating source as one exhibit, each time the claimant provided us with document we submitted it. The result was an abnormally large number of medical exhibits.
The OTR was issued by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) who historically has not done so. There have been numerous claims pending from claimants with similar or less favorable vocational factors and medical conditions that were not granted an OTR. It would appear that the ALJ approved the OTR because of the large number of medical exhibits. Maybe the ODAR rumor is true.