January 15, 2020

What You Do in Your Spare Time Matters When Trying to Get Social Security Disability

What you do in your spare time matters when trying to get Social Security disability.  The big question when trying to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is whether you can work a full-time job.  So why does the Social Security Administration (SSA) care what you do in your spare time?  My clients seem to have a hard time understanding how these two things can be related.  If you take a moment and think about your daily activities and relate those to job duties, you may find some of them are not so different.  Many activities you do every day require you to stand, walk, sit, bend, crouch, use your hands and arms, concentrate, and many other physical and mental activities.

When assessing your claim, the Social Security Administration will ask many questions concerning are known as “Activities of Daily Living” or ADL’s.  These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Cleaning your home
  • Doing laundry
  • Doing dishes
  • Yard work
  • Driving
  • Grocery shopping
  • Bathing or showering
  • Dressing yourself
  • Volunteering
  • Hobbies
  • Going out with friends and family
  • Using the Internet

These are just a few examples you may be questioned about.  In preparation for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), I attempt to question my clients on whether or not they do these activities and advise them to make sure they answer these questions completely.  For instance, if you are asked if you drive and you simply answer yes without explaining that you can only drive short distances and do not like to drive at all, you may be jeopardizing your claim for disability.   A simple blanket answer of “yes” to every question without stating the limitations you experience can make it sound like you have no restrictions in your activities.  Many times, when preparing my clients for court I find that they have completed documents for the SSA stating they have no restrictions when in fact they are not performing these activities the same as someone without a disability.  Before you submit these forms back to the SSA, you can ask your attorney to review them.

It is important when completing paperwork and answering questions for the SSA that you are truthful and complete.  Sharing your diminished capacity to perform tasks with your doctor may also help document the problems you are experiencing.  What you say and what you do can be a determining factor in receiving the disability payments you deserve.

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