Tricky Questions You May be Asked During Reconsideration

Artwork: Robin Mead

Reconsideration is a short step that happens after your first application and before your appeal. It does not happen in all states.

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.  A friend may be able to help remind you about things you forgot.


🌞 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. Common side effects that affect functioning are: fatigue and 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, 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

🌞 Do You Have Any New Medical Conditions?

If you left any diagnosis off the first time, list them here. 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.

🌞 What is the Contact Information for Your Doctor?

It may not matter too much what you write here because Social Security is unlikely to collect your recent medical records at this point. Collect and submit them yourself if at all possible. (Hint: Complete records, not what you see online).

If it is not possible for you to collect your own records, it is a good idea to stay in touch with the person handling your case and continue to request and confirm that your records are collected.

🌞 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.


🌞 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 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).

🌞 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

🌞 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

Questions You May Be Asked 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. Learn more about Representative Payees.

We should probably mention: Many people who have representative payees hate this arrangement. Once you get into this situation it is very difficult or impossible to get out of.


🌞 Ideally, everything you write on your disability application will be similar to what your doctors write in your file. How to Paint a Consistent Picture

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

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