5 tips for completing Social Security’s adult function report

CVC Case Manager Rhaisa Lopez is a trained Social Security Administration disability advocate. She offers her tips for completing the adult function report form.

When you submit an application for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) gathers information about your daily activities and how your condition impacts them. SSA uses this information, in addition to your medical records, to determine if you have the ability to work. In most cases, SSA gathers this information by sending out a form called the “Adult Function Report.”

People often find this form overwhelming, but if you receive it, don’t panic. We have several tips to make things easier.

Five tips for completing the report

1. Describing your activities: Answer the questions from the perspective of a bad day, be honest, and provide detail.

adult function report activities
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

Many people struggle when completing this form because they have forgotten what life was like without their daily limitations. So, take time to think about all of the changes you have made to adjust to your life because of your condition. For many, describing these limitations is embarrassing and painful, but the more detail you can provide for your case, the stronger it is.

Remember: SSA does not get the opportunity to physically see you. They have to rely on your medical records and the forms you complete to understand why you cannot work.

Follow these guidelines when describing your activities:
  • Report all limitations you have while doing your daily tasks. Include any accommodations you make or assistance tools you use during the day. For example:
    • Do you only shower once a week instead of once a day because of mental or physical fatigue?
    • Do you require a shower chair or handrails to bathe?
    • Have you chosen certain clothing because it’s easier to dress?
    • Do you only cook using the microwave?
  • Explain your answers when possible. For example, if you do cook only using the microwave because of your health, explain why. Otherwise, SSA might assume that you can cook meals from scratch, which takes time and energy and could indicate that you have the ability to work.
  • Explain all of your limitations, including the time it takes to complete a daily task. Think about any activities you can only do for a short amount of time or require a break to complete.
  • Finally, always include whether you receive help with any of your daily activities or if someone has to do something for you.

2. Tricky questions: Take time to understand and review questions carefully.

Questions on the report are designed to determine if you are capable of working. Answering incorrectly could adversely impact your disability claim. Yet, many people find certain questions confusing.

Review some of the most commonly misunderstood and inadequately answered questions to make sure you accurately represent your situation:

  • woman with hot water bottleHow do your illnesses, injuries, or conditions limit your ability to work?
    SSA wants to see medical reasons why you are unable to work. Always include your symptoms when answering this question. Examples might be issues with your memory, concentration, difficulty being around others, or even walking or sitting for extended periods of time.
  • PERSONAL CARE (Check here ___ if NO PROBLEM with personal care.)
    This question tricks a lot of people because SSA is asking if you have difficulty with or have made changes to your personal care, not if you can care for yourself. For example: Do you have to sit down when getting dressed or showering? Do you shave less often? Do you require help dressing, bathing, or brushing your hair? Unless you have no issues with personal care, do not check this box.
  • Are you able to pay bills, count change, handle a savings account, or use a checkbook/money orders?
    To many, this question sounds like an inquiry into your finances. But SSA asks this question to determine if you would receive your own disability check, or if someone else would need to receive the check on your behalf. So SSA only intends you to check “no” to this question if you have physical and mental difficulties as a result of your symptoms and medical condition, not if you have limited finances.
  • What are your hobbies and interests?
    Include both hobbies and activities that you can no longer perform and those you have now. This highlights how your life has changed because of your medical conditions.

3. The “remarks” section: Make use of this space for overflow.

The adult function report includes a lot of information, so many of the questions do not provide enough room for answers. If you run out of space when answering a question, use the remarks section for additional space. Include the number of the question you are answering. The remarks section can also be used to share additional information that you would like SSA to know. If you run out of space in the remarks section you can attach additional pages to the form. So, take as much space as you need.

4. Don’t rush: Ask for an extension as necessary.

The letter attached to the function report states it is due within 10 days of the letter’s date. If you need more time, you can call the number of the examiner listed on the form and ask for an extension. Submitting a thoroughly completed form a little late is better than submitting a hurried, partially completed form. A determination on your claim sometimes comes down to what information is provided on this form, so it is very important to complete the form entirely.

5. Get help: Don’t feel like you need to do this on your own.

If you have trouble understanding the questions or have difficulty writing, you can have someone else complete the form on your behalf. Also, you may not be aware how much your impairments affect you and impact your activities of daily living, so an outside perspective can be helpful.

After you finish

reading glasses

Once you complete the form, read through it to make sure you did not miss any important details, and make a copy to keep for your own records. You may need this information again. If you have to file an appeal, SSA may send you another adult function report and it will be beneficial to have your original report so you can highlight any changes in your condition and provide consistent information to SSA.

The adult function report gives you the opportunity to provide a first-hand perspective of how your condition(s) impact you physically and mentally on a daily basis, from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Make sure to use this form to describe what you go through every day, how your daily routine has changed, and how your condition prevents you from working on a sustained basis.

If you have any questions about this form or any other Social Security disability questions, please contact Caring Voice Coalition’s disability team.

For more tips about the disability application process, check out the other blogs from our team.

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