Tricky Questions at the Doctor’s Office

Art: Robin Mead

Here’s a few tricky questions that may come up at the doctor’s office. They may come up with your doctor or with the Social Security doctor.

🌞 How Do You Spend A Typical Day? What Activities Do You Do?

Many disability lawyers recommend that when you talk about an activity, you also explain if there are any limitations you have or if there is any way that someone assists you. If you would like some ideas for how to do this, here’s some ideas for How to Describe Your Activities and Limitations.

🌞 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.

🌞 Do You Take Care of Children or Pets?

This is a common question on Social Security forms. It may also come up during doctor visits. If you are caring for children, it may be helpful to explain if there are any activities with your children that 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.

Remember, they are not asking if you love your children. They are not asking if you are a good parent. They are asking if you can do the physical and mental tasks required to care for children (Could you work as a nanny? Could you work in a childcare center?)

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

If your symptoms go up and down, some disability lawyers and advocates suggest to explain that your days vary and describe your worst day. One way to do this is to start your sentence with “When my symptoms are severe…” Or “On days when I have bad symptoms…” You can also note what symptoms it causes, “I can walk for x minutes without causing pain” or “I can lift x pounds without causing pain.” Here’s how Willow answers: “Can You Do X?”

🌞 What is the Reason You Are Making This Doctor Appointment?

They ask you this when you book the appointment, and again when you arrive. If you are applying for disability, it is important to continue regular visits and treatment for each of the conditions you are applying for. If you are applying for Bipolar, it will not matter if you see the doctor for a broken foot. You will also want to set up an additional appointment just for the condition you are applying for.

🌞 How Are You Today? Why Are You Here?

At the beginning of your appointment, your doctor may be taking notes. It is helpful to use this time to give your doctor an update on your condition.

Don’t assume that your doctor knows or remembers what you are struggling with or that this will be written in your notes if it is not discussed. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same thing at every visit, if it is still true, say it again. Social Security will be looking for a record of your impairments and limitations at every visit.

Some readers report that they regret hiding or downplaying how bad things were shy, or embarrassed, or trying to be polite. Please learn more about: How to Stop Hiding From Your Doctor

🌞 Why haven’t you been taking medication or following treatment?

Please take a look here to learn more about What is Good Cause? What is Not Good Cause? 

🌞 Why haven’t you been going to the doctor?

Please take a look here to learn more about How To Explain Why You Haven’t Been to the Doctor

🌞 Questions about Drug and Alcohol Use

Alcohol and drug use can affect your disability claim. Learn more: Can You Get Disability if You’ve Used Alcohol or Drugs? and Social Security Disability Benefits and Drug and Alcohol Use

🌞 No Question!

One of the most important things in your medical records are the notes your doctor writes. They may not ask you a question, they may just make observations and write them down. It’s a great idea to learn: What is My Doctor Writing About Me?


🌞 Your Limitations

At every doctor’s visit you have, it is a big help if you can talk about functioning and check that this is being noted in your records. This is the kind of information Social Security looks for in your medical records.

Talk your doctor and let them know: Are you having any problems with sitting, standing, walking, moving, dressing, bathing or eating? Does your illness or medications give you difficulties with thinking, remembering or concentrating?

More tips for How to Have Doctor Visits That Create Accurate Records

🌞 Your Ability to Work

If you talk to your doctor about working, it is helpful if you explain any symptoms that keep you from being able to work. Some people think they will be approved for Social Security because they keep getting fired or can’t keep a job. This is not true.

There are many reasons why someone might not be able to keep a job. Maybe they have no childcare, no transportation, or a bad boss, or there was a factory shut down, or there are no jobs available in their area. None of these things matter for Social Security.

You will only be approved for Social Security if you show that you are medically unable to work – your medical symptoms make it impossible for you to perform a job.  It will help if medical records include information on your medical symptoms and how these keep you from being able to do work tasks. How to Answer the Question: “Why Can’t You Work?”


💮  The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability 

💮  How to Have Doctor Visits That Create Accurate Records

💮 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

💮 Page Updated: 7/1/19

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5 thoughts on “Tricky Questions at the Doctor’s Office”

  1. I was so impressed, privledged to overlook many of your website’s information. I at on the time, kept a copy of my own records, and still do for outpatient procedures, My brain fog is getting to concentration problems, I’m trying to find my way back, after 15 diagnosis and counting I’m just overwhelmed, overstimulated, no family support, I think I’d be better if my living situation was secure.


  2. I was fortunate to find a PCP that actually encourages the patient to use the patient portal to keep them updated. I get medication changes, refills, advice on sprains, referrals, and all sorts of things from my doctor, who usually responds in 24 hours. ❤ I wish all doctors were as conscientious.


  3. Insurance plans only pay for patients to see their primary one time a month, maximum, for fifteen minutes…
    Even if you have a chronic illness that involves a multitude of issues to be dealt with like specialist referrals, prescription approvals and more, before you can even consider “luxuries” like letters you need written for various purposes, forms filled out and so on.
    Making it even more impossible to navigate all the red tape to navigate your way through…


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