Approximately 65 percent of initial Social Security disability applications are denied. A denial can occur for a number of different reasons. For example, the applicant may not be disabled according to how that term is defined for Social Security disability eligibility, or the applicant may not have worked long enough to qualify for such benefits.
However, some of the applicants who have their initial applications denied do qualify for benefits—they just did not fill out the Social Security disability application forms fully and correctly.
During the claims process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends claimants questionnaires about:
- Medical treatment
- Work history
- The ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
The best way to answer these questions is to be honest, accurate, and thorough.
Know the Truth About Your Limitations
Many Social Security disability applicants make approximations on their questionnaires that are not accurate.
For example, an applicant may answer that he can walk “a mile” or “a block” before needing to rest. While he may have been able to walk that far when healthy, his ability may have changed since he became disabled. If you are able to do so, go to a football field and note exactly how far you are able to walk using the yardage lines on the field or the track around the field before you complete the questionnaire. Be able to note what problems kept you from walking farther.
Similarly, the SSA may ask about your ability to lift. It is important to understand they are really asking about your ability to lift things repeatedly like in a work situation. Try lifting various items around the house on different days and note closely whether lifting certain items increases pain in a certain area. Just because you used to lift a certain amount of weight while working, does not mean you are still capable of lifting that amount when disabled.
Finally, when describing your ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), consider how the way you perform ADLs may have changed since you became disabled. If you have arthritic hand problems, do you need frequent rest breaks to massage your hands when peeling or chopping food items? Do you need extra rest breaks when sweeping due to increased lower back pain? When describing your ability to perform ADLs, be sure to provide a complete answer. A complete answer includes your limitations when performing such activities.
If your disability claim is important to you, it is worth the effort to test yourself around the house or neighborhood to figure out your actual physical limitations. Our vast experience with Social Security disability claims provides invaluable advice, such as this, to a disability claimant. If you would like more information about this topic, download our FREE book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, or contact us directly for an initial consultation.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.