SSA’s disability adjudication system is the largest in the United States, if not the world. It is far larger than a civil or criminal system. With the huge volumes of claims SSA uses a large variety of forms at all adjudicative levels, even at the ALJ level, to insure they ask everyone the right questions to get the necessary answers to make the best decision possible. The system is not perfect, for many reasons, but I truly believe virtually all SSA employees try to make the best possible decision they can, as soon as they can. At the initial and reconsideration level they will have you fill out “function” or daily activity forms. Sometimes they will also want a relative or someone who knows you well to fill out the same forms you need to avoid significant discrepancies between the first and third party responses or else SSA can conclude someone is not fully credible so they don’t believe pain or fatigue. They will ask for work histories. Do not EVER exaggerate the skill level o your prior work. The more skilled your prior work was and the more education you have, it is easier for SSA to conclude you can perform other work even if you cannot perform “past relevant work”. If you were the might office cleaner, don’t try to say you were the President of the company’s right hand man and he could not have run the business without you. If you have an episodic impairment, i.e. asthma, seizures, chest pain, etc., it helps to keep your own diary or calendar of these events so you present a cogent history. Not everybody goes to the E/R doctor for every seizure, asthma attack, etc.. The basic criteria for acute asthma attacks is 6 severe attacks with E/R or hospital treatment in a 12 month period. If kept in the hospital 24 hours or more that counts as 2 of the 6, not one. It is counterproductive to self-treat asthma because you could die during a really bad attack but you also deprive SSA of corroborative medical records. SSA prefers to find you disabled better if you have 6 or more E/R summaries for acute attacks than if you say I had 6 or more, just believe me when I say so. For seizures, the requisite severity is gran mal more often than once a month and petit mal (non-convulsive) more often than once a week. There is also a basis for arguing that severe migraines more often than once a week “equals” the criteria for petit mal seizures SSA much prefers objectivity, in medical paper, so it doesn’t have to believe you. Not everybody tells the truth about their diseases and symptoms.
As a general rule, I prefer to see all of these forms from my clients BEFORE they get submitted to SSA, not after. If you do not understand the forms or no certain what SSA is looking for, we can help you respond.
As another general rule, I have virtually never had a client approved because their activities were so severely limited as described in the daily activity forms but I have seem large numbers of claims where they have been denied at initial and reconsideration as SSA deems them to still be too active for their stated pain, fatigue, depression, etc.. You are signing these forms under penalty of perjury. If you mow the lawn and they ask you do you mow the law, you have to answer the question truthfully. You don’t have to volunteer that you mow the lawn if not asked. Yes or no questions should generally be answered yes or no. You are much more likely to hurt your claim by writing a long answer to a yes or no question. I have also seen many claims denied because claimants write or type horrendously long answers to even basic questions. In this scenario, SSA will question how bad your hand/finger problems can be, how bad are mental problems, cognitive problems, etc. when one writes long well-organized, cogent responses. Generally, most claimants are not doctors, though I have represented more than a few doctors. You are not supported to be writing a medical treatise as the opinions of non-physicians are given very little adjudicative weight.