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SOAR Team Tips: Writing the MSR

This article includes suggestions, tips and strategies to help you write your first Medical Summary Report (MSR). If you breakdown the MSR into sections, it is much easier to write. It is a critical part of a SOAR application packet but do not be intimidated by it!

SOAR Team Tips

Getting Organized

  • At first glance the MSR may seem daunting, but if you take it in segments it is really manageable and it is invaluable in helping DDS “see” the person.
  • Take notes on the worksheet and then write each section a little at a time. It can help to formulate questions you want or need to ask.
  • Go through medical records and put them in chronological order. Then sit down with all the information – medical records, MSR worksheet, and any current mental status exams. Decide which segment you’re going to work on first and then set aside time to write with no interruptions.
  • You may not write about every section. For example some applicants don’t have a military history. You just need to indicate that.

Writing the Report

  • In the opening paragraph, introduce the DDS examiner to the person by describing how the applicant looks, behaves, speaks, and interacts with others. 
  • The MSR provides the whole story, not just a snapshot in time that medical records tend to do. It also helps to frame each person’s challenges and struggles.
  • Share your first-hand knowledge of the person. Describe the way he or she interacts with you.
  • Review some of the functional description examples if you're feeling stuck on what to include or how to describe a behavior or attitude that needs to be included.
  • Write clearly, using simple language. Remember that the DDS examiner may not have a great deal of knowledge about mental illness, so avoid any jargon.

Reviewing the Report

  • It’s also helpful to have a colleague review it for completeness and clarity. Don't forget when having someone else review your MSR, to remove the person's name, Social Security number, and date of birth.
  • Remember that the SOAR Technical Assistance Center is available to review and offer suggestions as well! Your State or Local SOAR Lead may also be available to review your MSR and provide feedback.


Use the SOAR Quality Review Checklist to ensure a complete, high-quality application and reach out to the SOAR TA Center for individual support!