Not a lot of people realize this but applying for social security disability benefits involves lots of paperwork. And a huge chunk of that paperwork involves answering disability questionnaires.
While it might be tempting to just skip those forms or put whatever answer comes to mind, common sense will tell you it’s a bad idea. Because it is, indeed, a bad idea.
You see, the answers you put on your disability forms will be used by the SSA to judge whether you’re eligible for benefits or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re dying from the pain of your injury. If it’s not reflected in your answers to the disability forms, the SSA will have no idea of the true extent of your injury.
This is why answering disability forms are just as important as gathering supporting documents for your claim. It can make or break your disability application.
If you have a workers’ compensation lawyer, they can help you fill-up the forms properly. But if you want to go the hard route and do things yourself, here’s a quick guide on how to answer questions on disability forms.
TYPES OF SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY FORMS
Before learning how to answer them, you first need to be familiar with SSA’s disability forms. During the course of applying for your social security disability benefits, you’ll have to complete some or all of the following forms:
1. APPLICATION FOR DISABILITY INSURANCE BENEFITS
This is one of the disability forms you need to complete if you’re applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. It contains questions about you and your disability such as:
- personal information
- the date you become disabled
- previous social security benefits availed (if any)
- ability to work
- other earnings
- whether or not you’re receiving workers compensation
2. ADULT DISABILITY REPORT
The SSA’s Adult Disability Report is the agency’s main disability form. It’s a 12-page form that gives the SSA an overview of your disability. The information you’ll provide in this form is vital in helping the SSA determine whether you’re really disabled under the terms provided in the Social Security Act. This includes:
- general information about you
- name and contact details of the people who know about your medical condition other than your doctor
- your medical conditions (physical and mental)
- your work activity
- education and training
- job history
- any medical treatments or medications you’re taking
- other information that you think will be helpful to the SSA
A paper version of this form is available on the SSA website.
3. ADULT DISABILITY FUNCTION REPORT
Also known as SSA Form 3373, this is a report of how your injuries, illnesses, or conditions limit your activities. It’s a supplemental report that you need to attach to the disability report.
Remember that SSA’s disability benefits are awarded to people who can’t work because of their disability. This is why your answers to this questionnaire will have a huge impact on your claim. If the SSA deems that you can still do most of the activities that many abled people do, they may deny your claim.
4. WORK ACTIVITY REPORT
If you indicated in your disability application that you are currently working, the SSA may send you a Work Activity Report. This will help them gauge whether or not you’re engaging in a substantial gainful activity (SGA). If you’re earning more than the SGA’s current threshold, your claim may be denied.
You need to complete this form within 15 days after receiving it and send it back to the SSA Field Office address indicated on the first page. An online version is also available on the SSA’s website.
5. CHILD DISABILITY REPORT
The SSA’s disability benefits aren’t just for adults, it’s applicable for children too. And if you’re applying for your child’s disability benefits, you will need to complete this form. It requires information about the child, medical conditions, treatments, education, and work history (if any).
6. REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION
If the SSA denies your claim the first time, you have the right to file an appeal for reconsideration. In fact, you’re more likely to get approved if you request a reconsideration than if you are to file a new claim.
In the Request for Reconsideration Form, you can state your reasons why you disagree with the SSA’s decision. You can also choose whether to appeal your claim through a case review, or a formal/informal conference.
7. REQUEST FOR HEARING BY ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE (ALJ)
This is the next step of the appeals process. If after filing a reconsideration request the SSA still denies your claim, you need to request a disability hearing.
The Request for Disability Hearing Form is pretty short. In fact, you only have to fill up half the page since the bottom half will be completed by an SSA staff. But it requires you to provide the reason why you disagree with the SSA’s decision and what additional evidence you can submit (if any). If this still doesn’t work, you can elevate your claim to the Disability Appeals Council.
HOW TO ANSWER DISABILITY QUESTIONNAIRES
GENERAL TIPS ON HOW TO FILL OUT DISABILITY FORMS
Write clearly and legibly.
Avoid erasures as much as possible. And if you’re not sure about the spelling of the word, look it up first before writing it. This will help the SSA process your application faster.
Do not leave any section of the form blank (unless otherwise specified).
You can ask your lawyer or an SSA staff if you don’t know the answer to a question. Or if the question isn’t applicable, just write “none”, “does not apply”, or “not applicable”.
Give consistent answers.
As mentioned, you will need to submit different types of disability forms. And if your answers in those forms contradict each other, how will the SSA believe you? They may even think that you’re trying to commit disability fraud.
Answer the questions truthfully.
You might be thinking that exaggerating your conditions will help you get your disability benefits much faster. While this may work at first, the SSA will eventually catch on to it. When this happens, you can be charged with Social Security Fraud. So it’s important to answer the questions as truthfully as possible.
This is not to say, however, that you should downplay your condition. If you’re having a hard time climbing even just three flights of stairs or lifting a glass of water, you should indicate such in your answers. It will help the SSA assess your disability more accurately.
Follow the instructions on the form.
This goes without saying. Most of the disability forms have written instructions on the first page. Make sure to follow those instructions carefully. Doing otherwise can delay your approval or even lead to the denial of your claim.
ANSWERING COMMON DISABILITY QUESTIONS
Here are more tips on how to fill out disability forms to get approved:
Give Accurate General Information
In the first section of the forms, you will be asked about your personal information. This includes your name, contact details, social security number, and address. Make sure that all the information you wrote is accurate. Otherwise, the SSA will have a hard time reaching you or finding your records in their database.
Provide as Many Details About Your Disability as Possible
When completing the medical conditions section on the disability forms, make sure to provide as many details as possible. As mentioned, the SSA will use this information to assess your eligibility for disability benefits. If you don’t give enough details, the SSA may have to do their own investigation which can delay your benefits. Or worse, they’ll just deny your claim.
You need to disclose all the illnesses and injuries that hinder you from working. Be careful to provide the accurate date you became disabled or when you’ve stopped working because of your condition. This will be used as your disability onset date and will affect your back pay.
Describe Your Daily Activities Accurately
A large part of the Adult Disability Function Report is about your daily activities, routine, and hobbies. You need to clearly demonstrate how your condition affects your everyday life. Can you feed or bathe yourself? How about your hobbies? Can you still do physical activities? Your answers to these questions will show how severe your disability is.
If you claim that you’re having a hard time lifting a glass of water but then write that you’re cooking your own food, the SSA will most likely doubt your claim. The better you can prove your inability to do things, the higher your chances of getting approved for disability.
Describe Your Abilities and Medical Treatments
Your ability to walk, lift, stand, talk, and many more, will be used to determine if you can still work. And if so, what kind of work you can do. This will affect your eligibility for disability benefits as well as how much benefits you’re entitled to.
For instance, if your condition won’t allow you to stand for a short period, then you should describe it fully.
You must also include the medications that you’re currently on and their side effects. Sometimes, the side effects of your medications can also significantly interfere with your ability to work. If you fail to include this information, the SSA will base their decision on your medical condition alone.
If there are things about your disability that are not discussed, most disability forms have a “Remarks” section. In there, you can all discuss the details that were left out in the questions.
As mentioned, you must give accurate and complete information about your disability. Reviewing the form twice or thrice doesn’t hurt, and it will allow you to remove mistakes if there are any.
SSA-3373-BK SAMPLE ANSWERS
Here are a few disability function report example answers. Remember, these are only samples and are not meant to replace your actual answers. Always base your answers on your true experiences.
Question: How do your injuries, illnesses, or conditions limit your ability to work?
Sample Answer: I face limitations due to a restricted range of motion in my dominant right arm. Specifically, I cannot reach overhead to retrieve plates and cups from the cabinet. Whenever I attempt to do so, I experience sharp pain that radiates down my arm and into my hand, leading to the unintentional dropping of the item.
Question: Do you have any problems getting along with family, friends, neighbors, or others? If “YES,” explain.
Sample Answer: The pain and limitations caused by the injury have made it challenging for me to participate in social activities or fulfill my usual responsibilities. This has led to frustration and misunderstandings with family, friends, and neighbors. My mood and energy levels have been affected, making engaging in meaningful conversations or maintaining a positive demeanor harder.
Question: Describe any changes in social activities and hobbies you can no longer do or have difficulty doing.
Sample Answer: I can no longer participate in high-impact sports or physical exercises that strain my back. This means I have had to give up activities like basketball and running that were once an important part of my life. Additionally, I now struggle with tasks that involve prolonged sitting or standing, such as attending concerts or events, which can exacerbate my discomfort.
Question: How often do you go outside and where do you go?
Sample Answers: I can only walk a single city block, or 1/12 of a mile, before needing to rest for ten minutes. I can walk for one hour, but after that, the pain in my back and legs becomes so intense that I am forced to lie for the rest of the day.
Question: Do you need help taking care of yourself (e.g., bathing, dressing, grooming)?
Sample Answer: I do require assistance with certain self-care activities. Bathing has become challenging due to limited mobility and pain. Similarly, dressing can be difficult as bending, reaching, and putting on certain clothing items can cause discomfort.
Grooming tasks such as brushing my hair or tying shoelaces may also require assistance, particularly if it involves movements that strain my back. While I try to maintain as much independence as possible, there are instances where I rely on others for support in taking care of myself.
Question: How does your condition affect your ability to sleep?
Sample Answer: The pain and discomfort make it challenging to find a comfortable position, which in turn makes it difficult to fall asleep. Turning or adjusting during the night can be painful and disruptive, often causing me to wake up multiple times. The constant discomfort can also lead to restless sleep, leaving me tired and fatigued in the morning.
CONFUSED AND DON’T KNOW HOW TO ANSWER?
If you’re not sure how to answer these disability forms, it’s better to ask for some help from an experienced social security disability lawyer like Victor Malca. He has already helped thousands of injured workers in Florida. He can help you get the benefits you deserve too. Call us now for a free consultation.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.