Describing your medical conditions.
Early in your application for Social Security disability benefits you will be asked to list your “illnesses, injuries or conditions.” You will also be asked how those conditions affect your ability to work.
Under Section 2A (or the equivalent section in the online application) you will list all of the medical conditions that are limiting your ability to work. Do not just list “back problems” if you are being treated for other related (or unrelated conditions). If you have other medical problems, list them as well. Examples include: mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder to name the most common); orthopedic conditions (including past surgeries); vision disturbances; neurological conditions such as seizures or headaches; diabetes; heart conditions; bowel or bladder conditions; sleep apnea and memory or cognitive disorders. This list is not meant to be exclusive. The goal is to list all of the medical conditions that impact your ability to work. Try to list them in the order of their impact on your work. However, it serves no purpose to list minor, non-disabling conditions.
Under Section 2B (or the equivalent section in the online application) you will list all of the symptoms and functional limitations that are limiting your ability to work. You may run out of room on the paper form. If so, continue the information in the Section 9 Remarks section. Keep in mind that your goal is to provide a clear picture of your medical problems and limitations to the adjudicator who will decide your claim. List all of your symptoms and functional limitations, not just the ones that bother you the most. The most significant symptoms to report would include: pain; weakness (describing where); limited use of hands arms or legs (describing why); poor sleep; fatigue (including poor sleep, insomnia and the need to nap during the day); fever; malaise; depression and anxiety.
Functional limitations are important. What problems do you have using your hands? Is your ability to lift and carry affected? Is grip affected? Do you drop things? Can you use a computer for extended periods? Do you have limits standing and walking? Do you need to rest often? Are you able to complete a full day of daily activities? Do you spend some days in bed? Do you need help with things you used to do by yourself (dressing, bathing, cooking, laundry, shopping)? How often to you fall asleep or need to lie down during the day, even if only for a few minutes?
Under Section 2E (or the equivalent section in the online application) you will be asked when you became unable to work due to your medical conditions. Do not use the date that you last worked if you were absent from work for medical reasons for at least a month within the six month period before you finally left. Instead, use the date you last worked on a sustained basis. Example: A person stops work on April 15 due to health problems. They recover and return to work on June 1. They work until September 15 and then have to stop for good. Social Security will consider the work from June 1 to September 15 to be an “unsuccessful work attempt” in most cases. Thus, the “onset date” for disability purposes is April 15 and not September 15. If you use the September 15 date on your application, you may be paid five fewer months of benefits than you are entitled to.
Under Sections 2H and 2J (or the equivalent sections in the online application) you will be asked how your condition affected your ability to work and why you stopped working. Go into detail in those sections. Many individuals work until their medical conditions cause frequent absences or poor performance. If that was true for you, admit it. If you were fired or asked to leave or encouraged to apply for disability by your employer, explain that. How better to convince Social Security you cannot sustain employment than to be asked to leave by your former employer?
SECTION 3 – Information about your work
This section asks for information about your past work. Here are the key tips for this section of the application. Remember and include all of the physical demands of your past work, even if it appears to have been sedentary. For example, if you were a secretary, but had to delivery files to another part of the office or plant, then walking and standing were required of that job. If you had to move files or office equipment, then lifting and carrying were involved. Try to remember the times when your job required you to lift or carry more than 10 or 20 pounds and include that information. You want to accurately describe your job in a way that will also allow the adjudicator to understand why you can no longer perform that job on a sustained basis. For example, if your job required you to work with a computer screen most of the day and you were experiencing double or blurred vision, be sure to mention the computer work and that difficulty. If you had a skilled job (say a teacher for example) and were forgetting information, also mention that.
Our law firm focuses exclusively on Social Security disability law. To learn more about the SSDI and SSI programs and how we can improve your chance for success, contact the Philadelphia Social Security Disability attorneys of the Disability and Injury Law Offices of David R. Machek for a free consultation at: (215) 886-0398 or at: http://www.disabilitylawpa.com