“Trying to get Disability is like going out to dinner with a nosy person who asks rude questions. It gives me the creeps!” My client called after receiving a package from the Social Security Administration (SSA) questioning her daily activities, pets, eating habits, and chores. In my client’s mind the SSA had gone too far. They already knew her age, weight, and personal medical details. Why did they need to know what she had for lunch?

At the initial and reconsideration stages the SSA often mails lengthy questionnaires (“Adult Function Report”) to both the claimant and the claimant’s contact person. While it is unlikely that the intent of these questionnaires is to be sneaky the SSA does consider the claimant’s answers to get information not always directly asked.

My experience is that the SSA is not looking at if the claimant had a chicken salad sandwich versus pizza for lunch. What the SSA is looking at is if the claimant regularly chops, stirs, and stands for three hours slaving over a tricky recipe. Does the claimant say he cannot walk more than five minutes but takes his Labrador for a 20 minute job every day? Or, does the claimant say she cannot be around people but is an active member of her church or local Girl Scout troop?

The best way to answer the questionnaires is truthfully. Did you dust the living room but then spent the next three days in bed? If you go to the store once a week but your son carries all the groceries to and from the car, tell the SSA! If, on the bad days you can’t get out of bed, but on the good days you might eat dinner with your family, let the SSA know! It is important to not exaggerate your problems – but it is equally important to not put on a falsely brave face. The Social Security Administration can only make a fair decision if they know the whole story.