In this article, I will address a commonly-confused aspect of the Social Security Disability application process: the Activities of Daily Living questionnaire. Once you have submitted your claim, and Social Security has verified the information, you will sent a very-detailed questionnaire. Essentially, this is designed to help Social Security better understand how you spend your time.
First of all, you must understand that this questionnaire is not designed to "trick" you. Quite the contrary, it is designed to give Social Security a better idea of how you impairment (or impairments) affect you on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, it is critical that you be as open and honest as you can be. Many people have the mistaken belief that, if you say you do certain things during the day, you will automatically be denied. Nothing could be any further from the truth.
Just because you actually have a life does not mean you do not meet the definition of disability. In fact, most people with severe impairments are able to do certain things everyday. Most can shower, prepare meals, and go to the store.
The question is not "Can you do anything?". The question is "Can you be expected to maintain a full-time work schedule, given your impairments?". Simply being able to do basic things like shower and make lunch has very little to do with your ability to maintain gainful employment.
You will be asked whether or not you need assistance with very basic activities, like those referenced above. You will also be asked if you socialize, have difficulty sleeping, go out at all, and if your impairments have ever caused you difficulty on the job.
The key here is to be as open and honest as possible. Bear in mind that you describing how difficult your life has become because of your impairments, and you giving those descriptions to people you have never met. The natural tendency is to make things a little too "rosy"; not because they actually are so good, but because you feel some embarassment being so honest.
Particularly in regard to mental impairments, has your career suffered due to your illness? Have you been fired, gotten poor evaluations, found it difficult to relate effectively to supervisors? Write it down. This is no time for modesty. Social Security needs to know precisely how your impairment affects you.
In fact, it is often a good idea to run your responses past someone you know and trust. Ask them to be very honest about how detailed your responses are. They may say "Don't you remember calling in sick twice a month because the stress level was killing you?". Or, "Why didn't you mention that you are exhausted after coming back from the store?". The advice of a trusted friend can be invaluable here.
Remember that applying for disability benefits is a difficult process. Once approved, you will have numerous incentives to try working again, whether for someone else or in self employment. The "activities of daily living" questionnaire is an important aspect of approval.
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