Social Security cards

By Marie Lowery

At each stage of the Social Security disability process – initial, reconsideration, and hearing level – the Social Security Administration requires applicants to complete a Function Report that asks you to describe your daily activities, or “ADLs.” It is important to thoroughly complete these forms because one of the ways the Social Security Administration evaluates claims for disability is to look at how your condition affects your ability to perform day to day functions. ADLs are things we do on a day to day basis, for example, preparing meals, driving, shopping, taking care of pets, interacting with others, paying bills, and getting dressed.

Many clients do not take the time to complete these reports because they think it is not important to their claim; however, this is incorrect. The Social Security Administration reviews these reports and uses your answers to determine how well you function.

Here is an example of how function report helped an applicant win their claim:

  • An individual filed for disability based on degenerative disc disease and cervical radiculopathy; she reported loss of sensation in her upper extremities as a residual. On her function report, the applicant stated she had to have assistance with buttons and zippers when dressing. During her hearing, the Administrative Law Judge asked the applicant to describe a typical day. The applicant testified that every time she wore a blouse or cardigan she had to have her husband help her dress. She also stated she could not wear shoes with laces. These statements were consistent with the function report, thus the Administrative Law Judge found the applicant’s reports credible.

Be aware that sometimes your answers may give the impression that you are able to do more than you actually can do. In these situations, it is important that the applicant explain answers that may negatively affect his or her claim.

Here is an example:

  • An individual stated on an Adult Function Report that she takes care of her grandchild during the day. At the hearing the Administrative Law Judge questioned the applicant about how she was able to care for a small child if she was disabled. The applicant then explained that her daughter worked nights and she only watched her grandchild while her daughter slept in the other room between shifts. She clarified she was never alone when watching the child, was unable to play with the child due to her physical limitations, did not have to prepare meals, bathe or lift the child. The Administrative Law Judge determined the applicant was merely supervising the child while her mother slept in the other room, which is not inconsistent with a claim for disability benefits.
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