After you file your initial application for disability benefits, your claim is eventually assigned to a state government agency known as "Disability Determination Services." This agency assigns your application to a claims analyst to gather information, evaluate, and decide your claim. One of the first things the claim analyst will do is send you forms.
The funny thing is that many of the forms ask for the same information you already provided in the application. This is why it makes sense to save any initial application forms or questionnaires that you fill out along the way.
Many of our clients continue to treat for their medical conditions after applying for benefits. Keeping track of the new medical providers is important, because if your claim is denied, yo have to provide updated information. Grab an appointment card on your way out of the clinic so you have that information at the ready if you need it.
As with all the forms, you must be straight forward and honest about your symptoms, and how they affect your ability to do every day activities. If someone overstates their symptoms, or understates their abilities, it usually sticks out like a sore thumb, and that can be fatal to your claim.
Let's take a look at two of the more common forms that you will fill out as you move through the process.
The "Disability Report-Adult" Form
This is a pretty big form. It starts out by asking you for your contact information, but then asks for an actual "contact." This is a person who is not a doctor, but knows about your medical conditions, and can help with your claim. Many people provide the name of a family member or friend who is familiar with their medical conditions and how they affect their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Make sure that you select somebody that knows about your condition, because Social Security will probably send your contact a form asking them for information about your limitations.
The form then asks about what medical conditions limit your ability to work. We see many clients providing symptoms and not the actual medical condition. For example, somebody might have lumbar arthritis, but indicate that they suffer from "back pain." Generally, a symptom is how a medical condition makes you feel. If at all possible, include the actual medical condition on this list, and then discuss the symptoms later.
The next section of the form asks about your educational background and work history. Social Security wants to know about the physical and mental requirements of your past work. This is because Social Security will have to figure out whether you can perform any of these prior jobs with the limitations that you now have. After you list your job history, Social Security will want to know about the physical and mental requirements of each particular job. Be as specific as possible so that Social Security can determine whether you can actually do any of these prior jobs with your current limitations.
The next section covers medical treatment. At a minimum, should have a list of all the medical providers you have seen, their contact information, and a summary of what kind of treatment you received. Social Security will also want to know why and when you saw these doctors, and what kind of tests were performed. Sometimes, it makes sense to get a copy of your medical records so that you can give accurate responses.
Here is another tip: You can request your medical records and send them directly to the DDS.
Be sure, however, to include the DDS correspondence or fax cover page so that your medical records end up in the correct file.
At the end of the form, you are invited to make comments. Many times, we see people using this section to plead with Social Security, assert that they are legitimately disabled, and need some help. This is probably true, but it really doesn't advance your case. If you choose to make a comment or remark, give specifics on how your medical problem affects your ability to perform work activity. For example:
"My low back pain requires me to take frequent rests throughout the day with my legs raised.
There some dates that I am not able to get off the couch or out of bed.
I also have trouble concentrating because of the pain."
This information goes directly to how your medical problems affect your ability to work. That is the kind of information Social Security needs.
Here is a copy of the form to download if you need a copy.
The "Function Report-Adult" Form
After asking for your basic background information, this form gets right to the heart of the issue in the Social Security Disability claims, asking:
"How do your illnesses, injuries, or conditions limit your ability to work?"
For such a big question, you get a total of six lines to provide an answer. But, if you need to, you can go to the Section E-Remarks part of the form to supplement your answers.
Even with this limited space, however, you can get your point across, and be brief and to the point. Here is an example:
"Low back pain limits ability to sit, stand and walk, must reline with legs
elevated throughout day. Some days, confined to couch or bed."
Even this is a bit wordy, but it is to the point. You do not have to even use complete sentences.
The next question:
"Describe what you do from the time you wake up until going to bed."
On this question, you have four lines, but again, you can go to Section E to supplement your response. You may consider splitting up your response to this question into the morning, afternoon and evening. You do not need to write out a complete sentence, but just give a summary of what your activities are during those periods of the day.
The form goes on to ask about specific every day activities, like whether you care for others, or for pets, your personal care, if you need reminders for taking your medications or care of yourself, how you get around, cook, and shop.
Here is an important point:
Being "disabled" under the Social Security statute does not mean you are an invalid. It simply means that you are physically and/or mentally unable to perform work activity on a sustained basis. So, if you do some housework, or take care of a pet, that is not a problem.
To prove this point further, Social Security law makes it clear that you may be disabled, even if you are able to do household chores or personal care. This is because in order to work, you must be able to perform your job on a "sustained basis," day in and day out. However, many Judges will use the information you provide about everyday activities to conclude that you are able to perform work activities on a regular basis. To avoid this, you should include how you perform these activities differently because of your disability, and if you get help doing the activities. Also, if you cannot do the activities as often as he did in the past, make sure you explain how often you actually are able to take out the trash, do laundry, or sweep the kitchen floor.
Section D asks for information about your physical and mental abilities. There is a check in the box portion that covers many physical and mental activities, with an opportunity to get more specific about these particular limitations.
The form then seeks specific questions about your ability to walk, concentrate, follow instructions, and get along with authority figures. Keep in mind that these forms are "one size fits all." In other words, questions about the ability to concentrate and get along with other people may be directed at mental impairments. Questions about your ability to walk and lift are obviously directed toward physical limitations.
The last part of the form covers basic medical treatment information, including your prescriptions, and whether you use braces or appliances. Some people will use a brace or a cane, but not have a prescription. If you are using any kind of assistive device, you should ask your doctor to state whether the assistive device is medically necessary in your chart note, or through a prescription.
The last part of the form is the "Section E-Remarks." As we mentioned, this is agood place to supplement your answers to all the questions in the form. Sometimes, people try to plead their case and this part of the form, and although that often does not hurt the claim, it certainly doesn't go far to help it.
Here is a copy of the Function Report-Adult form available for download.
If you have more questions about applying for benefits,Check out our free e- book, The Social Security Disability Guide.
Questions about a claim, or a claim denial, contact our office.