Why Does Social Security Disability Care About My Daily Activities?
Social Security Disability examiners use an individual's ability, or for that matter, inability, to perform daily activities as a measure of their disability. What I mean to say is that if an individual is unable to take care of his or her own grooming (i.e. showering, washing hair, dressing, brushing teeth, etc.), household chores, drive, make change or count money, grocery shop, they are most likely unable to work at a substantial work activity level (to learn more about this concept: substantial gainful activity).
How does Social Security obtain information about your ability to perform routine activities of daily life (known as ADLs, or activities of daily living)? Social Security Disability examiners are able to secure this information from a variety of sources.
Social Security gathers information about an individual's ability to perform activities of daily living, beginning with the initial disability interview if it is done via the phone or in person. During this interview, a Social Security claims representative makes observations with regard to your physical and mental impairments, and these are noted in your disability file. Once your disability file is sent to the state disability agency, it is likely that the disability examiner will send out questionnaires, for you and your third party contact, which address your ability to perform routine activities.
Many individuals also make comments about their daily life to their treating physicians, that are in turn recorded in the physician's medical notes; naturally, disability examiners read these notes. And if an individual has to attend a Social Security consultative examination, the examining physician may also make observations about an individual's functional capacity from the moment they meet.
Social Security Disability examiners use all of these sources to get a clearer picture of what an individual is capable of doing despite the limitations imposed on them by their disability condition or conditions.
Social Security Disability is based upon residual functional capacity, consequently getting detailed information about an individual's daily activities is just as important as obtaining objective medical information. Both are needed to make a Social Security Disability determination.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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