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Activities of Daily Living

Activities of daily living include any activity you engage in on a daily basis such as showering, brushing your teeth, house cleaning, shopping, etc. The SSA needs to know if your condition causes pain or difficultly when performing any daily activity. These basic everyday activities are labeled as “activities of daily living” also known as ADLs.

Your ability to perform activities of daily living will be used while determining whether or not you qualify for disability benefits. When the SSA reviews your ADLs, they will need to know detailed answers to the following questions:

• What is an average day of your life like from the time you wake up until you go to bed?
• What household chores are you capable of without stressing yourself?
• Are you able to safely drive a vehicle?
• Are you able to cook and prepare your own meals?
• Are you able to bathe and use the restroom by yourself?
• Are you capable of dressing and grooming yourself?
• Do you have normal sleep patterns?
• What interests and hobbies are you actively engaged in?
• How does your impairment limit your ability to work?

The SSA will use this information while evaluating the severity of your condition and is typically displayed to the SSA through the ADL questionnaire, also known as the Function Report.

ADL Questionnaire

As stated above, under certain circumstances, when you apply for disability benefits the SSA will ask you to complete an ADL questionnaire, also known as the function report. The ADL questionnaire lists common everyday activities in which any self-sufficient individual should be capable of performing. Examples of these activities include showering, cooking, driving, grocery shopping. The SSA will use the questionnaire to determine how your disabling condition hinders your ability to perform everyday activities and will use this information to decide if you are capable of achieving substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Many applicants make the mistake of not filing out or not being detailed enough in the function report. This unfortunately will force the SSA to: ask you for more information and evidence delaying your claim, request you to attend a consultative examination, or deny you benefits due to lack of limitations.

The Importance of Consistency

When the SSA reviews an applicant’s entire application, they will use function reports to determine if the limitations they said they experience are accurate. During an appeals hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will refer to what an applicant wrote on the function reports and will ask questions related to what was stated. The ALJ is looking for consistency between the answers given in the hearing and the answers provided in the function reports. If the applicant gives an answer that differs from what was stated in function reports, the ALJ will assume he or she lied on the function reports unless they provide a valid reason for changing their answer.

For example: an applicant applies for disability benefits for their degenerative disc disease. They state in their function reports that they are unable to walk or stand for more than 15 minutes. The applicant also stated that they go to the grocery store once a week. The ALJ will doubt the applicant due to the fact that grocery store visits require more than 15 minutes of constant walking and standing.

This will typically result in the ALJ denying the claim unless the applicant is able to validate their statement. However, if the applicant explains that he or she doesn’t actually walk in the grocery store but uses a mobility scooter to move around while shopping, the ALJ may accept this explanation and approve the applicant for disability benefits.