When you fill out Social Security’s application for disability benefits, request for reconsideration or any of the disability reports that are part of this process, you will be asked why you believe you are disabled.
As I have discussed elsewhere, you can use any or all of the three theories of disability (listing, grid rule or functional capacity) to request an approval. If you clearly don’t fit within one of these theories, avoid including it. For example, if you are 35 years old, the grid rules won’t apply to you so don’t make a grid argument.
Here are some examples of how you might make a functional capacity argument at Question 3A of Form SSA-3368-BK – Disability Report Adult. Question 3A asks you to list all of the physical or mental condions that limit your ability to work. At the bottom of Question 3A there is a note to use Section 11-Remarks to add additional information.
1. Herniated disc at L5/S1 resulting in chronic back pain, with radiation into my right leg
2. Type II diabetes with poor blood sugar control
3. COPD – I have reduced lung capacity most likely from exposure to chemicals and sensitivity to temperature extremes, dusts, gasses and fumes.
4. Urinary urgency and frequency – I take a medication called Lasix and urinary issues are a side effect,.
5. Depression and anxiety – arising from chronic pain and stress due to unstable financial situation
Section 11 Remarks:
I am a 48 year old male with a high school education and a long (20+ years) work history that include employment as a police officer and as a pest control technician. While serving the City of Atlanta as police officer, I was involved in multiple motor vehicle accidents and altercations with suspects resulting in damage to my lower back. When I could no longer function as a police officer I accepted a job with ABC Pest Control, where I was responsible for spraying chemicals and installing termite bait. This job required crawling, climbing, stooping and kneeling in confined spaces while breathing toxic chemicals. Despite my best efforts, I no longer have the capacity to perform the tasks of my past work or any other work. I experience chronic back pain from a longstanding disc herniation at L5/S1 and bulging discs as L3/4 and L4/5. I have been given multiple epidural steriod injections without relief as well as facet blocks and 3 nerve ablation procedures, also without success. My orthopedist advises me that a multilevel disc fusion might help but he can only offer me a 33% chance of success. I have been referred to long term pain management and I spend my days on a recliner with minimal pressure on my lower back.
I am also diabetic and because I cannot exercise or move much, I have gained over 50 lbs. I take oral medications for my diabetes and recently was prescribed insulin injections. My blood sugar frequently exceeds 300mg/dl and I experience blurred vision on a daily basis. I occasionally experience numbness on the bottom of my feet and I have noticed that my balance is less steady.
I take a medication called Lasix to reduce inflammation. Lasix is a diuretic which causes me to urinate two to three times per hour. When I have the urge to urinate I must reach a restroom within a minute or two – unfortunately I have soiled myself on multiple occasions when I was unable to reach a restroom in time.
Due to exposure to chemicals from my pest control job, I have difficulty breathing when it is hot, humid, or in below freezing environments. My breathing becomes labored if I am around harsh odors, dust or fumes such as diesel or gasoline.
Finally, I am experiencing a great deal of depression and anxiety about not being able to support my family and not having enough money to pay bills. I have cashed out my 401(k) and I worry daily about being a burden on my children.
If I had the capacity to work reliably at any type of job I would do so but I find that 2 to 3 days per week I am literally unable to get out of my recliner and even the slightest exertion results in excruciating pain.
1. PTSD with anxiety and depression
2. Poor emotional stability with frequent crying spells
Question 11 Remarks
I am a 41 year old female with an 11th grade education and past work as a waitress, retail clerk and telephone customer service. I was sexually abused by a family member from ages 11 through 16 – this abuse occurred at least once or twice a month and sometimes more frequently. My mother is and was an alcoholic and she did not take any action when I told her about this abuse. The sexual abuse only stopped when my abuser moved away. I still see this person at family gatherings and he continues to verbally taunt me whenever he can.
This abuse has impacted me negatively. I have been unable to have any sort of romantic relationship, and I trust no one. I have a great deal of difficulty interacting with males in authority and I have left jobs simply because I perceived that a male boss was looking at me or speaking to me inappropriately.
In my 20’s I attempted to kill myself by taking an overdose of Tylenol – I was obviously not successful but I was hospitalized at Sunnyvale mental health for 10 days. Since then I have attempted suicide 3 additional times and I have been hospitalized at least 5 times for severe depression and anxiety.
I have been under the treatment of various psychologists and psychiatrists for over 20 years. The psychiatrists have tried multiple medications but I am still unable to function normally. The medications are either ineffective, make me non-functional or cause severe stomachaches. I experience flashbacks when I hear certain songs on the radio or even when it rains since I recall episodes of abuse during rainstorms.
I have lost at least 5 retail jobs when I was triggered and began crying uncontrollably. At times of extreme stress I sometimes hear voices and I prefer to avoid being around strangers. I have no close friends or family to talk with – it is a very lonely existence.
Often I don’t really care if I live or die – I have a miserable existence and no hope for the future. My current psychologist, Dr. Robin Smith, advised me to apply for disability benefits and she says that she would be happy to discuss my case with a Social Security employee.
What You Can Take Away from this Page
As you can see the narratives I wrote in both examples above for Section 11 paint a much more complete picture than the simple list of impairment requested at Section 3. Whether filling out one of SSA’s forms or testifying to a judge, you want to paint a picture that explains the “why” and “how” – how does your medical condition impact your capacity to function at a job and why you would not be a reliable employee 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
The State Agency adjudicator or the judge can read the medical reports and test results – they need to hear from you about the impact of these conditions on your capacity for work. They also want to assess your credibility – you are fighting the idea of being disabled with every fiber of your body, or have you given up and decided that you are disabled and want money. Your chances of winning go up if the decision maker in your case perceives you as a fighter.
Finally, in case you were not aware, you can use extra paper if you run out of room at Section 11 of the form. As your Disability Report will be part of your file, this explanation would be available to your judge as well.