Why is it important to understand The Function Report SSA- 3373?
Besides your application, disability report and medical records, Social Security uses your responses to other questionnaires to determine whether you are disabled within the Social Security’s definition of the term. Most important of these is the Function Report- SSA 3373. For many claimants, it is a difficult form. Why? It asks broad questions about your life and the response time to answer is short, usually 10 days. While it is prepared by you, and not a “professional”, it is an important form. While your responses will likely not “win” your case, it can cause your application to fail.
What Is The Function Report For?
Why does SSA ask that you fill out such forms in a Social Security Disability claim? The purpose is to learn what impact your medically determined impairment (MDI) is has on your daily life. A diagnosis alone does not mean there is a severe disability entitling the applicant to SSDI or SSI benefits. We have all known people who continue to work despite serious health problems. To be medically eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the applicant must prove that they have a medically determinable impairment (MDIs)that severely impacts their ability to work/function for a minimum of twelve (12) months.
How to Answer Function Report Questions
How should you respond to the questions set out in the function report? Honestly, as if under oath and with self-insight. This is far easier said than done. Despite what skeptics think, most claimants understate their disability; they tend to inflate their abilities, not their disabilities. Why? Shame, embarrassment, lack of insight can all be identified as causes.
Below are some of the questions I find claimants have difficulty with, along with some guidance that may help you as you go through this process. Keep in mind that your situation is unique to you, but for the sake of guidance, I offer example answers based on a hypothetical claimant, a 38 year woman with multiple sclerosis.
Remember, your responses must be based on your experiences alone.
Question: “Describe what you do from the time you wake up until going to bed.”
Comment: This is a horrible question. If I were to truly answer this question in detail, I would need at least 6 pieces of paper. Social Security gives you about 3-4 lines for your response. So, how do you answer? I recommend you accept that you have only a few lines and give a general description of what you do on a typical day, assuming you have typical days. Here is what our hypothetical claimant might say:
Example Response: Days vary. Get up after husband and daughter have left. I’ll attempt a quick shower; this frequently causes dizziness, and I have to lie down afterwards. When I get up, I'll have a light snack, and try to do a light chore. I’ll then lie down till it is time to pick up daughter from school. On some days, I might be able to help with dinner. After quiet family time, I will go to bed around 9pm.
Comment: This answer does not fully answer the question. There is no room on the form to fully respond. No matter, the questions are repetitive; by the time you have completed the rest of the form, the daily activities will have been fully explored.
Question:“Do you take care of anyone else such as a wife/husband, children, grandchildren, parents, friend, other? If "YES," for whom do you care, and what do you do for them?”
Comment: For some, this is a gut wrenching questions because there is a lot of guilt and pride attached to the response. What does this guilt translate to? For some, a very misleading answer.
Ex. Denise is nearly house-bound by nerve pain and anger issues. Her Claims Adjudicator (CA) sends her a function report. She writes “I am the sole caretaker to my elderly father.” Is she? No!!! While her contributions are important, what she does is limited to making medical appointments for him once every three (3) months and to remind him to take his medication once a day. What will happen if she does not change her answer? She'll likely be denied. The Division of Disablity Services (DDS) will be convinced that her father is disabled, not her.
Many people, especially mothers of young children, write with pride of how they take care of their children and husband despite their disabilities. Social Security may think that this is lovely, but they will not pay benefits on such a claim. Social Security has to find you are unable to work due to your disability, not due to the fact that you need to take care of others and have no further resources/energy to work on top of that. So, put aside your pride and delve into what you are actually doing – I am not asking you to minimize what you do – I am just looking for an honest response.
Example Response: We have three children. I do what I can. My husband had to change his work hours so he can be home by 4:30 to make dinner for us. He takes the kids to school. I usually can pick them up; their school is within 2 miles of our house. On some days, I have to ask a friend to do the pick up because I am too tired. When they come home, I will supervise them and may help with homework.
Question: PERSONAL CARE (Check here 0 if NO PROBLEM with personal care.)
Comment: A lot of people who must dress slowly, or cannot tie their own shoes, or must have someone else button their buttons inappropriately check “No Problem” when they should explain what is going on with them.
Is there a limit to what should be said? I do not believe so. If your hand cramping keeps you from holding a spoon reliably – put that on the form; if you have a hard time sitting on and/or rising from a chair and/or the toilet- put that on the form; if you have to lie down after taking a shower or wear bedclothes most days – put that on the form.
Question: List household chores, both indoors and outdoors, that you are able to do.
Comment: Your response needs more than what they ask for.
Example Response: On best days, can usually manage light cleaning for 15-30 minutes followed by rest. Generally cannot manage more than 2 hours of cleaning in week. Can’t vacuum. Can manage to fold laundry on better days.
Question: How often do you go outside? Comment: In that this question could be referring to your going into your backyard or going on lengthy social functions, your response needs to redefine the question.
Example Response: I leave my house 2-4 days a week, depending on my medical appointments and how I am feeling.
Question: 0 Use public transportation 0 Other (Explain) 0 Walk 0 Drive a car 0 Ride in a car 0 Ride a bicycle When going out, how do you travel? (Check all that apply.)
The 0 you see before each answer is a box on the actual form that can be checked if you do it.
Comment: Your response needs more than what they ask for. Put your check marks where appropriate and add a narrative statement to explain what needs to be explained. For instance, many claimants are still driving, and should put a check mark at “Drive a car”. However, if you do drive with restrictions add that to your response. It does not matter that there is no line for the response. Just write it in.
Example Response: I only drive in my neighborhood, and only before it starts getting dark.
Question:When going out, can you go out alone? 0 Yes 0 No
Comment: Again, this is a question that should likely be redefined in your response. A lot of people can go out alone for some tasks but not for others.
Example Response: I go alone to pick up my daughter at school. I need someone to come with me when I go on medical appointments because I get confused, and the doctors’ offices are too far for me to drive to and from.
Question: Has your ability to handle money changed since the illnesses, injuries, or conditions began? If "YES," explain how the ability to handle money has changed.
Comment: About half the claimants I know who have responded to this question without my input write that their ability to handle money has changed because they don’t have any. While this is true, it is not the information your Claims Adjudicator is looking for. She wants to know if you are still able to responsibly handle money. So, if the truth is that you are forgetting to respond to bills and/or making mistakes on your checking account, you need to put that information on your form.
Question: Do you have any problems getting along with family, friends, neighbors, or others?
Comment: Each situation is unique. I have found that many people who self-isolate check that they have no problems getting along with others. But, if they are self-isolating, it is because they do have this problem getting along with others, and should check “yes”.
Example Response: I am angered and frustrated by how quickly I lose track of conversations. I become irritable so I avoid people.
Question: Check any of the following items that your illnesses, injuries, or conditions affect: 0 Lifting 0 Walking 0 Stair Climbing 0 Understanding 0 Squatting 0 Sitting 0 Seeing 0 Following Instructions 0 Bending 0 Kneeling 0 Memory 0 Using Hands 0 Standing 0 Talking 0 Completing Tasks
0 Getting Along With Others 0 Reaching 0 Hearing 0 Concentration Comment: Many claimants feel overwhelmed by the idea of checking off too much. They end up only checking off those problems areas related to their primary diagnosis. Social Security’s evaluation is supposed to be based on the entire situation, not just the worst diagnosis. You should check off and explain (briefly is fine) all the items that your conditions impact upon.
The Remarks Section
At the end of the form, you will have a page to add in your remarks. This will give you the opportunity of further explaining the limitations you have as well as explain how you managed to answer all the questions on the form within 10 days. Example: I tried to finish this form quickly, but I would start to write and my hand would cramp up. Eventually I had to ask my mother to help me. I told her my thoughts, and she wrote them down. We would work on the form for as long as I could, usually 15 to 30 minutes at a time. We finished it on the fourth day.
Final Comments on Function Report SSA-3733
After you have completed the form, read it over. Does it give the reader insight into who you are and how you function now? If it does, send it in. If not, try again. Enlisting the help of someone you feel comfortable with sharing this information with may prove helpful. Keep in mind this form will be in your file and it is frequently read and relied upon by the Judge at the hearing stage a year or two later.
At C&R, we encourage clients to let us work with them as they complete their questionnaires. We are not looking to do anything more than have their responses reflect what they are actually living with.