What Role Do Forms Play In Analyzing Your Disability Claim?
The New Jersey state administration, like many government agencies, has a fondness for their forms. These forms are seen by many as both unimportant and a hassle. This is only half true. Forms are a hassle to complete and they even send the same form more than once in the life of a case at times. However, they are very important.
The Adult Function Report
One common form is called the “adult function report”. This form’s purpose is to get an idea of the claimant’s current Activities of Daily Living or “ADL’s”. It only has a line or two in which to answer each question. Think of it like Twitter, where there is a limit of 280 characters. You need to learn to condense the story, yet, try and be as complete and thorough as you can. One way to attack these forms is to make a photocopy of it or scan it. This way you can use one as a draft, and the other as your final copy.
“Where Do You Reside?”
The Adult Function Report starts by asking in what type of dwelling you live – apartment, house, trailer, etc., and with whom do you reside. They aren’t trying to be nosy or judgmental. The reason they want to know is that you are saying you are unable to work because of your disability. So, since you aren’t working, they want to know what it is that you are still capable of doing. If you tell them you live as the only adult in a three story house with five children under the age of seven, the Administration or the State Disability Determination Services is going to wonder why it is that you can’t work a job for pay because taking care of a very large home and five small children alone is the equivalent of a full-time job.
“What Do You Do All Day?”
They ask you what you do all day. They only give you four lines, so you need to condense it and not list everything you do. The forms ask if you prepare meals, take care of your parents or children, take care of pets and do yard work. They do give you a line or two to explain these answers. So, if you say you prepare meals, explain that you have coffee and toast for breakfast, a bologna sandwich and chips for lunch, and a frozen microwaveable dinner in the evening, for example.
If you say you are caring for pets, tell them that you feed your chihuahua and let him out the back door into your fenced-in yard if that’s the case. If you don’t explain, the adjudicator or judge will assume that you are making elaborate, time-consuming meals and taking your Irish Wolfhound on a five mile walk each day.
“Do You Need Help With Personal Hygiene?”
The forms ask whether you need help with personal hygiene, including bathing, dressing, hair care, using the toilet and dressing. Next to each of these, there is a small line to write your response. Be honest, even if you find it to be embarrassing. Some people can’t bathe at all and need to use a shower chair and perhaps do not dare to shower if there’s no one else in the home, in case they fall. Some people need help stepping over the side of the tub to get in and out, even if they are only showering.
People with bad backs may have trouble putting their shoes, sock or pants on, without making adjustments or without help from someone else. Claimants with arthritis in their hands may not be able to wear clothing with buttons unless someone else assists them. These people may have abandoned wearing shoes with laces or clothes with buttons and zippers, opting for slip-on shoes and pants with elastic waistbands. These are the type of things that should be explained.
“What Are Your Hobbies?”
The form asks if you have any hobbies. Be careful with this one. Many people want to answer with things like deer hunting, fishing, bowling, sports, dancing, motorcycle riding, sewing and the like. But, what they are not considering is that they have not done these things in some time, ever since their injury or since their illness got so bad that they could no longer do those things. So, answer the questions in the present tense. If all you can do now is watch television and read, then say that. There is a separate question about what you used to be able to do, but can’t do now. This is the section in which to list the hobbies you used to enjoy.
“Can You Leave The House And Take Care Of Grocery Shopping?”
They ask about your ability to leave the house and about shopping. If you only go shopping when someone can go with you to carry the groceries and you use the motorized cart or take frequent rest breaks, then say that. If you are afraid to leave the house alone because you are afraid you might fall, black out, have a seizure, etc., then say that, too.
“Where Do You Go On A Regular Basis?”
Another area of inquiry is what places you go on a regular basis. Examples they list are church, sporting events, and social groups. They are not asking for any improper purposes. The SSA doesn’t care which church/temple/synagogue/mosque you attend or whether you are a member of the Elks or the Socialist Workers’ Party. They want to know where you are going, what you do there, how often you go to these places or meetings, and how long you are there each time.
Your Contact Person Must Also Complete The Forms
The adjudicator will often send an almost identical report to the person you listed as a contact person when you first applied for disability benefits. They need to also be aware of how important these forms are and the need to explain. They also need to hear from you that you will not be hurt or offended by their replies because it is important that they are brutally honest about their observations.
Your answers to these forms, and your contact’s answers to the companion forms, will be used against you if it is not consistent with what you tell them later or if it is inconsistent with things you have told your medical providers. So, be aware of this because the adjudicator or judge will have all of your medical records. So, if you tell them you can’t care for your yard because of the pain you have in your feet from diabetic neuropathy, for example, but you go to the emergency department at the hospital three months later and tell them you fell off a ladder, while trying to trim branches from a tree in your yard, that’s going to make you seem less credible.
So, explain your answers and be very honest. Don’t try to exaggerate your limitations and don’t be so proud that you “play down” your limitations either.
Contact A Disability Lawyer In New Jersey And New York Today For More Information About Forms
For questions about forms, contact the disability lawyers at Uscher, Quiat, Uscher & Russo, P.C., today by calling our offices in New York City and Hackensack, New Jersey. Call 201-781-5645 or send an email for a consultation.