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How to Fill Out a Function Report?

How to Fill Out a Function Report?

One of the first things Social Security will send you after you file your Social Security Disability application is a Function Report. This is a form that asks you why you can’t work and it also asks a bunch of questions about whether you are able to do basic household activities. Social Security will use your answers to these questions along with your medical records to determine what you can and cannot due. Ultimately, the medical records are far more important, but it’s still worth it to fill this form out right. As you fill it out, you need to remember that you’re trying to prove that you cannot work. Therefore, you need answer every question with the mindset of how your answer proves you cannot work. In order to do that, you need to think of the basic requirements of keeping job. 

What Do Employers Require of Employees

Every employer requires you to show up on time, stay on task, and only take scheduled breaks. Employers will not let your take naps or elevate your legs above your heart for several hours a day. Think about which of your symptoms would be a deal breaker for any employer. Do you have fatigue that would require extra breaks? Do you need to lie down during the day to relieve pain? Would you have flare ups of your symptoms several times a month that would cause you to call in sick too often?

It’s also important to know what employers will tolerate. I often see function reports that simply say “I can’t stand too long.” There are plenty of jobs that don’t require you to stand for a long time. There are even jobs that will allow you to alternate between sitting and standing. However, there are not many jobs that will let you call in sick more than twice per month or take numerous unscheduled breaks. 

Keep in mind, what you have to prove changes a bit if you’re over 50 or 55. See this link for an explanation.  However, it’s always safe to include the things that would keep you from doing any job. 

How to Apply This Information to the Form

In the beginning they ask you the general questions about why you can’t work and how you spend your day. This is where you share those explanations of what makes you unemployable. If you have to lie down 2-3 times per day, say you have to lie down 2-3 times per day. If you have flareups that would cause attendance issues, include that. However, don’t exaggerate because your answers need to match your medical records. No one is going to believe that you have to lie down 24 hours per day. It’s enough if you have to lie down 2-3 times for an hour or two.

For the rest of the questions, you want to answer honestly, but find ways to convey how your conditions limit you. For example, under the “meals” section it’s perfectly okay to say you’re capable of making a sandwich. It’s not credible to think you can’t make a sandwich, but there’s also a space to explain how your cooking habits have changed. This is where you can say things like “I can’t stand long enough to make big meals” or “I have to stop to take breaks while cooking.”  The same is true of the household chores section. Many of my clients can put clothes in the washer but have difficulty picking up the wet clothes to put them in the dryer. You can also include things about how it takes you much longer to do these chores because you have to take breaks and on bad days you can’t do them at all. Remember, the need to do things like take extra breaks is one of the things employer will not tolerate. It’s not your job to argue that you’re dead. You’re just trying to show that you could not maintain a job.

For the rest of the questions, you want to answer honestly, but find ways to convey how your conditions limit you. For example, under the “meals” section it’s perfectly okay to say you’re capable of making a sandwich. It’s not credible to think you can’t make a sandwich, but there’s also a space to explain how your cooking habits have changed. This is where you can say things like “I can’t stand long enough to make big meals” or “I have to stop to take breaks while cooking.”  The same is true of the household chores section. Many of my clients can put clothes in the washer but have difficulty picking up the wet clothes to put them in the dryer. You can also include things about how it takes you much longer to do these chores because you have to take breaks and on bad days you can’t do them at all. Remember, the need to do things like take extra breaks is one of the things employer will not tolerate. It’s not your job to argue that you’re dead. You’re just trying to show that you could not maintain a job.

Credibility is Key

Social Security has your medical records. If your doctor says in your records that you’re still driving, it better not say in your function report that you can’t drive. If you write that you need a cane to walk, I better be able to find a reference to that cane in your medical records. For this reason, it’s probably best to keep your answers relatively short while still making your overall point. The more you say, the more likely it is that your doctor has included something different in his report or that you’ll say something different at your hearing. 

Don’t Overthink It

The most important thing is to turn the function report in relatively soon. Your medical records are far more important than your function report. Sometimes, I wonder if the people at Social Security even read these things. If you spend a month filling this form out, you’re just going to delay your case. We all know that these cases can take a long time. If you don’t turn in your function report, it will just delay a decision on your case that much longer and eventually they’ll turn you down for not turning it in. 

Questions

We’re happy to answer any questions if you get stuck. Your answers are likely perfectly fine, but I know some questions are just confusing and you want our opinion. We’re happy to help.

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