Part 5 of 5 - A Self-Help Guide: Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits by Janie M. Laubscher
The Disability Report
From your reading, you know that the decision on your disability claim is made by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in your state. When they receive your application:
- The first thing they do is read your Disability Report to get an overview of your case.
- Secondly, based on the medical sources you provided on your Disability Report, they request medical reports.
- Finally, after they have received your medical evidence, they review it and the information on your Disability Report to decide whether you meet the requirements for benefits.
Obviously, it is in your interest to complete this form very carefully and very accurately and you can do it better than anyone else. All the questions on the Disability Report are about you and you're the expert!
Only 30 Minutes to Complete???
The last paragraph of the instructions for completing the Disability Report contains this statement: "We estimate that it will take you about 30 minutes to complete this form. This includes the time it will take to read the instructions, gather the necessary facts, and fill out the form." That's laughable!! When I worked for Social Security, we were bothered by this misrepresentation but we used to say, jokingly, that anyone who could do all that in 30 minutes was automatically not disabled and, in fact, must have super powers! Here is a strategy for us mortals for completing the Disability Report.
Make a Work Copy of the Disability Report
As you work through the form, fill in the information on the work copy rather than the original. That way you can change and revise answers without messing up the original, and you'll be able to see how everything fits on the form. If you don't have access to a copier, use a tablet or plain sheet of paper.
Divide and Conquer
Break your work down into logical, manageable chunks. The form has 9 sections including remarks. They are:
- Section 1 - Information About The Disabled Person
- Section 2 - Your Illnesses, Injuries Or Conditions And How They Affect You
- Section 3 - Information About Your Work
- Section 4 - Information About Your Medical Records
- Section 5 - Medications
- Section 6 - Tests
- Section 7 - Education / Training Information
- Section 8 - Vocational Rehabilitation Information
- Section 9 - Remarks
The sections vary in length and complexity. Do one or two sections at a time at a pace that's comfortable for you. Take a few days or a week if necessary to complete it.
Pages two and three of the form deal with your condition and your work history. They contain some questions that require you to do more than give just a brief answer or check a block. It would help to be thinking about these questions as you work on the other sections. Here are my suggestions:
Focus on Your Work
In the work section of the Disability Report form you are asked some very specific questions about the job you did longest in the last 15 years.
- Think about each task you did as part of your job.
- How you did it and the physical and mental requirements involved.
- Make notes.
Dwell on Your Disabilities
This is dreary but necessary. We're told that we should concentrate on our abilities rather than our disabilities - and that's a wonderful prescription for daily living. But it's exactly the wrong approach for filling out the paperwork for SSDI benefits. Instead, think about things you used to do that you can no longer do and why you can't do them and why that keeps you from working. How you handle activities of daily living (cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery-shopping, caring for your personal needs, etc) has a bearing on your ability to work. Many of the same skills apply, things such as:
- using your hands, etc.
Over time, you've undoubtedly made adjustments in the way you do things to compensate for your impairment. Some of this adaptive behavior is probably so automatic that you don't think about it. But now you need to think about it.
- Ask your family and friends to help you.
- Children, even little ones, are often keen observers and like being asked to contribute.
- Make notes.
Before You Begin Filling Out Your Work Copy
While you're focusing and dwelling on the issues above, read the instructions for completing the Disability Report one more time. Then, starting on the other sections of the form, begin filling out your work copy.