Tricky Questions You May Be Asked When You First Apply

Artwork: Robin Mead

Be prepared for a lot of questions! It is always best to answer all questions honestly. Some people have difficulty remembering all of their symptoms and limitations.

It may be helpful to keep a diary of all of your symptoms and problems for a week. (You will be surprised how long it gets!) Then you can create a list for yourself with all your symptoms and limitations. This can be helpful to look at when filling out forms or talking to your doctor.

Some people also find it helpful to have a friend or loved one look over the questions on the forms with them. Sometimes we don’t even notice all of our own symptoms and limitations, or we have a hard time admitting how difficult things have become.Β  A friend may be able to help remind you about things you forgot.


These questions will be on the forms you fill out when you first apply. If you already sent in your forms, and you left something out or regret your answer, you can follow up with more information. It is best to do this in writing and send it to the right person. How to Submit.

If you become confused of have problems with questions on forms, you do not have to fill them out yourself. You can hire a lawyer to help you, or you can call your local Social Security office and ask to schedule an appointment to apply for disability. The person you meet with will ask you questions and fill out the forms for you.

🌞 Do You Have Any Side Effects from Medications?

Side effects can be very important in disability cases. Make sure to list all your side effects and how they keep you from being able to function. Also, explain these to your doctor and check if they are listed in your medical records. Side effects can by physical (for example: fatigue or headache) or mental (for example: difficulty with focus, memory and concentration).

🌞 Are Your Working?

Answer honestly. If you are earning under $1,170, you are still able to apply for Social Security, but it may be more difficult to get approved. If you are self employed, they will consider the amount you make after business expenses and deductions. If you are self employed, or you were self-employed in the past, they will consider the amount you make after business expenses and deductions. Please see these Special Notes for People Who Are Self-Employed

🌞 What Is Your Disabling Condition?

It is recommended to include on these form all conditions that affect your ability to function in any way. It can be especially helpful to include mental health, depression and psychological struggles, even if these are not your primary condition. Most people are approved for a combination of conditions and for many people mental health can be very important in their case. Sometimes this is the difference between getting approved and getting denied.

🌞 Do You Have a Mental Health Diagnosis?

Even though I just told you to list mental health, I should also let you know that there are two drawbacks: 1) If you are also applying for disability through your employer, mental health may cause problems, please read more. 2) If it turns out that mental health is one of the conditions you are approved for, Social Security will expect you to stay in mental health treatment for as long as you are on disability.

🌞 When Did You Stop Being Able to Work Because of Your Disability?

List the last day and month when you worked and earned more than $1,170/month. If you were earning more than this, but not actually working (out on medical leave or sick leave) then list the last day you actually performed work and include a note stating the dates of your leave. Note: If you worked over $1,170 for only a short amount of time, you may decide to choose an earlier date. Google “Unsuccessful Work Attempt” to learn more. If you first became disabled before the age of 22, in some cases this can mean a higher check.

🌞 Who is Your Doctor?

For physical health, list all doctors starting one year before your onset date (the date you listed as becoming unable to work). For mental health, list all doctors starting two years before your onset date. If you have important medical records from before this time period, you can collect them yourself and send them to Social Security. On the form, try to include every hospital visit, emergency room, clinic, procedure, medical test, and specialist visit you have had since becoming sick.

🌞 What is the Contact Information for Your Doctor?

If at all possible, it is really great if you can collect and submit your medical records yourself when you first apply. (Hint: You want complete medical recordsnot what appears online on a patient portal) If this is not possible, it is very helpful if you provide Social Security or provide your lawyer with complete contact information for all your doctors. Try to include all phone, fax and physical addresses. Missing records are common so it’s great to follow up and find out what was and wasn’t collected.

If you are not collecting your records yourself, here’s great advice from one reader: “I recommend verifying with your medical offices the correct mailing address and fax numbers for medical records requests (preferably prior to applying). I have had some offices change fax numbers, and some offices use a different address for medical records requests (particularly some of the hospitals).”

🌞 Do You Want to Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

You can apply for both SSI and SSDI at the same time. If you apply in person, they may ask you if you want to apply for SSI or they may just do it automatically. If you apply online or through a lawyer, there is a box asking if you “intend to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)”. If you are poor, make sure to check this box. Social Security will contact you if and when they need more information. If you feel tempted to not check this box, or if someone tells you to not apply for SSI, read this.

If you don’t know the difference between SSI and SSDI, just apply for both and don’t worry about it, or you can read this and learn the difference: SSI and SSDI

🌞 Do You Have Children?

If you are applying for SSDI, it is important to write down the names of your children on your application, even if they do not live with you. Sometimes lawyers or caseworkers don’t do this. If you become pregnant or have more children while applying, it’s important that those children get added to your application as soon as possible and that you keep written proof of your request to have them added. (This matters a lot for SSDI only, it is not important for SSI).

🌞 Why Can’t You Work?

You may also be asked some form of this question by the Social Security doctor or by your own doctor. Let them know if there are any medical reasons you cannot work. Examples of medical reasons include limitations in sitting, standing, walking, lifting, or memory and concentration. More examples can be found on the physical and mental RFC forms. Social Security regulations state that you must be medically unable to work. It does not matter if you can’t work for other reasons.

🌞 What are Your Dates of Employment and Past Jobs?

Just write the truth. What you write here should be the same as what is on your taxes. If you were technically employed, but stopped working (out on extended sick leave or disability leave) then list the dates when you actually worked and write a note indicated the other dates when you were receiving income but out on leave.

🌞 Who Is Your Contact Person? Or Please List Three People Who Know You.

They may ask this at the beginning or later in more forms they send you. They may contact the person you list by phone or mail and ask them some questions about you. If your contact person does not want to be called, just put a mailing address and leave the phone number blank. Your contact person should be a friend, family member, caregiver, or someone else who knows your daily life well. It is much better to list at least one person here, but if there is truly no one who can answer questions about you, write that you have no contact person who knows your daily life well.

🌞 Do You Have Any Remarks?

Write down if you are any of these things: Homeless, Veteran, Terminally Ill. Request that your case be flagged as a priority case for homeless, veterans, or terminal illness. In some cases, these applications can be processed more quickly. It is OK to leave the remarks section blank.

🌞 Do You Have Anything to Add?

Some people attach personal letters or statements about their illness and history. Some lawyers think this is a great idea and some lawyers think this is a terrible idea. I personally do not recommend doing this, because these letters can be used against you, but in some cases they may be some help to your case. It is much more important to focus on getting a good letter and good records from your doctor.


Shortly after you apply, you may be contacted for an SSI Interview. This is just a financial interview to see if you qualify for SSI. There will not be any health questions. If you applied in person, they probably already did this part.

In many cases, they do not do this interview now, they will do it after you are approved, but it is still very important to read the following because your living situation now could affect your check later.

🌞 Who Do You Live With? How Much Rent Do You Pay?

If you are applying for SSI, these questions can be very important. Learn more: How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand. Note: your lawyer will not tell you these rules, and 9 times out of 10 your lawyer will not know these rules. OK, realistically, more like 99 times out of 100. Learn them yourself.


About a month after you apply, they will send you some more forms, or they may call and ask you these questions over the phone. You may also be asked these questions by your doctor or by the Social Security doctor.

🌞 What Activities Do You Do?

Disability lawyers recommend that any time you mention an activity, you also explain if there are any limitations you have or if there is any way that someone assists you. It doesn’t matter what this activity is: brushing your teeth, feeding your cat, cooking a meal, reading a book. It is also helpful to mention any devices you use (shower chair, cane, walker, etc). Learn more: How to Fill Out an Activities of Daily Living / Adult Function Report

🌞 What Are Your Limitations? How Long Can You Stand/Sit/Walk?

Some disability lawyers recommend to answer this type of question by describing your worst day. You can do this by starting your sentences using the magic words. The magic words are “When my symptoms are severe…” Or “On days when I have bad symptoms…” Learn more: How Roselyn Got Approved by Using the Magic Words

🌞 Do You Take Care of Children or Pets?

They are not asking you if you love your children. They are asking you if you can hold down a job as a nanny. Tell the truth. If you are caring for children, it’s a good idea to include if there are any activities you need help with, anyone who assists you, any activities you cannot do, or any activities you cannot do as well as you did before you became disabled.

🌞 What Were Your Job Duties at Your Past Jobs?

If you are age 50 or older this question may be very important. Learn more: How to fill Out a Work History Report (form SSA-3369).

Questions at Other Times

🌞 Can You Manage Your Own Finances?

You may be asked this by your doctor or by the Social Security Doctor or by someone who works at Social Security. Your answer can have a big impact on the rest of your life. It is up to you how you want to answer. If a doctor writes that you cannot handle finances, then after your case is approved, you will not be allowed to manage your own disability money. You will need to select someone you trust to handle your disability money for you, or social security may appoint someone. To learn more about this google: social security representative payee.


🌞 Do You Know the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

OK. No one will actually ask you this, but I am asking you. SSI and SSDI are two different programs. You can apply for one or both. You may wish take a moment to learn The Difference Between SSI and SSDI otherwise the next two years of your life may be very confusing.

🌞 Why Can’t You Do Sedentary Work?

You may not be asked this question directly, but it is something you should ask yourself and keep in mind. If you are under the age of 50, your file will need to show that you cannot do full-time work of any kind. If you are over the age of 50, your file will sometimes (but not always) need to show that you cannot do full-time work of any kind. This means you cannot be a ticket taker, a laundry folder, a file clerk, or a telephone operator.


🌞 You can find sample copies of completed Social Security forms and more information on how to fill out each form here: How to Fill Out Forms & Answer Questions

🌞 Ideally, everything you write on your disability application will be similar to what your doctors write in your file. This is especially important when writing about your symptoms, limitations, and activities. How to Paint a Consistent Picture

🌞 If you are well enough to take a few extra steps, there are a bunch more things you can do to make your application the best application ever. You can do these things before you apply, while you apply, or after you apply.

Updated May 2017. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let me know if any links on this page stop working. 🌞

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s