Social Security Disability Activities of Daily Living Questionaire

This issue came up in a recent comment. A claimant's wife had received a form to complete and return to social security. From the information the commenter left, I wasn't able to determine exactly what type of form this was. However, it sounded like an ADL questionaire.

What does ADL stand for? ADL is the acronym for activities of daily living. These are the basic activities of daily life that an individual will normally engage in such as cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning, dressing, bathing, personal hygeine, etc.

Why are ADLs important to social security? Allegedly, this is because an individual who has a physical or mental impairment, or both, may be restricted in his or her ability to engage in the normal range of basic daily activities. For instance, an individual who has trouble ambulating or has lower back pain (which could be caused by a number of conditions, including scoliosis, stenosis, or degenerative disc disease) may have difficulty sweeping or vacuuming. An individual with a rotator cuff injury may have trouble getting kitchen implements out of cupboards. An individual with memory difficulties may have problems with shopping or paying bills. There are many other examples, of course.

But, back to the question, why is it important for social security to know about a person's daily activities? Because, as SSA sees it, a correlation can be drawn between restrictions in ADLs and an individual's reduced ability to engage in past work or some form of other work. For this reason, social security will typically ask a claimant to complete a questionaire regarding their activities of daily living.

However, in addition to doing so, social security will often request that a third party (a relative, spouse, neighbor, or former work associate) supply ADL information to social security. Why so? Allegedly, to gain objective information from a third-party who, as a result of routine contact with the claimant, is qualified to comment on the claimant's ability to engage in daily activities.

How does social security know who to contact for third party ADL information? This information is actually supplied by the claimant. And for this reason, claimants should do the following: after supplying the name of a third party to the social security administration (either to a claims rep at a social security office to a disability examiner at the state agency where the claim is being processed), it may be a good idea to contact the individual(s) you've listed.

Why? To let them (your thirdy party contacts) know that they may be contacted by SSA about your case AND to let them know about your daily activities, your specific functional limitations, and how your condition (or conditions) limits your ability to perform normal daily activities.

Too many claimants never consider the fact that even their closest friends may not be completely aware of their specific medical or mental conditions affect their ability to work and engage in activities of daily living. However, by discussing your disability claim with the people you list as third party contacts, you can A) enlighten them about your impairments and limitations and B) help to ensure that the information they supply to the social security administration is actually constructive and useful to your case.

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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