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How To Answer Questions With Specifics Instead of Generalities: An Example


When providing information to Social Security to support your claim that you are disabled, it is better to be specific than general about your condition and how it affects your ability to work, and your activities of daily living. 

Following are two examples. The first states a situation as a general statement. You may conclude after reading it that the person we refer to as "Lewis" is clearly disabled. But Social Security didn't think so until an attorney prepared the following "Specific" response for a Reconsideration appeal.

Example Of A General Response

Lewis wrote his disability report as follows:

"My job is physically challenging. I am in charge of the local office for my national firm where I supervise forty employees.  I am responsible for locating and keeping clients. I have to work long hours, six days a week. I had to be on my feet most of the time."

In response to every question he repeated his responsibilities and that his illness caused "fevers, fatigue, body aches and fungal infections" that made it "impossible to work."  He added that he was already approved for disability by the company's disability insurance company.

He added that his doctor told him to reduce stress and "take care of my health."

He mentioned that he did "shopping… on days I have strength to do so (and) items are delivered to reduce stress. My wife, who works, cleans. I do some when I have the energy."

Answering questions about hobbies, he stated: "I paint at home and take walks when I have the energy."

Elsewhere he stated: "I have frequent visits from friends and relatives when I am feeling able."

He did not supply any supporting documentation.

Example Of A Specific Response

The attorney's document was more specific and tied each of Lewis's symptoms to the requirements of the job that he could no longer fulfill. 

The new form stated that since Lewis had filed his claim "his symptoms have continued or intensified. Fatigue restricts him to bed an average of one day per week on which days he often cannot maintain basic personal grooming.  On other days he requires frequent rest and naps. Severe diarrhea 2 to 3 days per week, regular chronic gastric bloating and pain, and occasional constipation greatly impair his ability to function. Sporadic sleep at night further reduces his energy, as do 2-3 day bouts of low-grade fever (100-100.5 degrees)… Infections in his feet and pain in his left quadriceps make standing or walking for prolonged periods impossible. … 

The severe diarrhea and gastric pain he experienced at the time of his claim continues to (limit) the amount of time he can be away from home. The pain in his feet and left leg continue to make standing or walking for prolonged periods impossible.  Certainly, standing or walking for even two hours out of the day is beyond his capacity… He can do basic food shopping on days he feels well…. Aside from making his bed, his wife performs all other household tasks…. 

The request was accompanied by a letter signed by Lewis's wife repeating this information and stating specifics of more things Lewis could not do in his personal and social life. It was stated that Lewis's social life was practically nonexistent due to his condition.

This time around Lewis was awarded Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

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