SSA Function Report
Simply put, in our opinion, the SSA Function Report is by far the most crucial SSA form in the entire claims process. The average American has absolutely no idea how to properly complete this form nor do they have any idea what the Agency and DDS is getting at with all their questions. But rest assured, these questions are calculated, scrutinized and constantly updated. Like other SSA forms, Attorneys and non-attorney representatives don’t pay nearly enough attention to Function Report form. And like other SSA forms, if you don’t pay enough attention to this, the DDS, and the Administrative Law Judges will almost certainly use your entries on this form against you.
First of all, there is nothing that you state on this form in response to any question, that’s going to awaken them to the fact that you’re in pain or have other limitations. They are not going to read your Function Report and come to the conclusion that the case should be approved. On the contrary, they are looking for responses that are going to be contradictory and inconsistent with someone who is limited by the limitations you stated on your application. We’re not kidding.
If you’re situation is like most of our clients, you’ll get this form in the mail and there’s possibly a Work History Report tagging along with it. Oh and of course, it wouldn’t be a US Government form without a Paperwork Reduction Act notice. The letter from the Examiner will indicate that you have 10 days to return the Function Report. When you see the date stamped on the Examiner’s letter, you’ll realize it has already been about nine days, and you might start to panic. No need to. You can simply call them and tell them you just received it and they’ll give you a mulligan, and an extension.
They will most likely send you an additional document that we call a DDS barcode. This barcode is a sheet that you can place at the top of the Function Report and fax it back to them. When you fax it, it will go directly into your SSA electronic record. That cover sheet doesn’t help you much if you don’t have access to a fax. We do.
If you call the DDS Examiner and actually get he or she on the phone, you can try to ask them for help with the form. We don’t think you’ll get too far. They too, can’t be bothered in trying to go through that entire form with you. Since they don’t have the time, you just may get the bum’s rush from them on the telephone. And unfortunately, many Attorneys tell their clients to do the best they can and really don’t give the time of day that is necessary on this particular form. Not us! We specifically set aside whatever time is needed to stress the importance of this form, going over each and every response with you. If you’ve received a Function Report, and you’re not sure what to do, you are certainly free to give us a call. If you’re not represented, we’ll be happy to speak with you.
Understanding The Form
This government form was previously titled: Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire. They have since renamed it to Function Report. There are several different versions of the Function Report floating around within the Agency and DDS. You’ll even find some different versions on the internet. If you’re not sure which version you have, check your particular version at the bottom left corner of the form.
One version is form SSA-3373, and that one was updated in September, 2005. Another one is Form SSA-3380. We have seen this form number on both the Adult Function Report, and what the Agency calls a Third-Party Function Report. That one was updated in December, 2015, and updated yet again in September, 2017. In June 2020, the Agency gave form SSA-3380 a major overhaul. We think this is the Official Third-Party Function Report.
Today, we believe and hope the official Adult Function Report is SSA Form 3373-BK.
This version is hot off the press as it was updated in October, 2020. We suspect that with the global Pandemic, shut downs, and working from home, Agency personnel had time on their hands and finally got around to updating this.
Your completed Function Report will go into your SSA electronic medical file and is always stored in the E exhibits. The F exhibits contain all your medical records such as Doctor’s visits and Hospitalizations. The E exhibits contain medically related documents. The section reads: Medical Development. In here, you’ll find many of the forms you completed such as Function Reports, Work History Report, Pain, Questionnaires, etc. If you’re reading a ALJ decision, and it makes reference to an exhibit 5E, 6E, etc., they are most likely referring to your Function Reports.
The original form in most of its versions ask the following question early in the form: Describe what you do from the time you wake up until going to bed. They then gave you five lines to accomplish this. This is not an accident, it’s by design. Nobody can really describe with accuracy. the pace and quality of what you do in a typical day in five lines. So in a rush to get the form done, you’ll probably try and answer the question as best you can. And to the average reader, your response will read and appear like a normal day for you several years ago…when you got home from work.
Today’s form gives you seven lines, but the question is different. Today’s form asks how your illnesses, injuries or conditions limit your ability to work. It doesn’t ask how it affects your ability to work, it asks how it limits that ability. As you can see, this is a qualitatively different question. They seek information about your abilities not your limitations. Trust us, there’s a difference. The updated initial question is different than its predecessor which asked you what you did on a typical day from the time you woke up to the time you went to sleep. Once again, seven lines is a little bit more than five, but not quite enough to accurately describe how your medical conditions limit your ability to work.
From there, the new form adopts previous versions and once again, asks you to describe what you do from the time you wake up until going to bed. Only this time, they’ve restricted your response by eliminating the number of lines. You now have only 3 lines to accomplish this. Good luck fitting all that in. Some of our clients have fabulous hand writing and can actually get a decipherable response. For many of our clients their handwriting is about as readable as their doctor’s.
Now you might be thinking, simple fix….since there’s not enough room on their form to describe what you do on a typical day, you’ll just attach a separate sheet in which you’ve typed the response with much more detail of what a typical day is like for you. The problem with that is the Agency is going to try to use the content of your thoughts, the clarity of your response, and the sheer volume of it as evidence against you. In many claims involving a psychological component, we’ve seen Judges treat these detailed responses as proof that you have the mental ability to function, to the point you can perform an unskilled job involving a one or two-step prep work process, with little or no contact with the public, etc. (see psych claims)
In section C, question 12, you’re asked about your personal care and your ability to dress, bathe, use the toilet, etc. We believe this is the ultimate trap. Why?, Because these daily tasks are critical components of various psychiatric diagnoses and the Agency’s evaluation of them. As you can read in our section entitled: Psychiatric claims, the Agency analyzes something that they call the part B criteria. Among the functional areas in their part B criteria is a Claimant’s ability to adapt, OR manage oneself.
In this specific functional sub section, they are required to analyze and address your ability to regulate emotions, control behavior, and maintain well-being in a work setting. In addition, they must analyze and address your ability to respond to (work) demands, adapt to changes in a work setting, managing psychologically based symptoms, and distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable work performance.
One of the criteria specifically listed in this functional sub-section is maintaining personal hygiene and attire appropriate to a work setting. And this is the only question in the Function Report that speaks to your ability to adapt or manage oneself as envisioned in this sub section of the Part B criteria.
Time again, the ALJ will try to use your responses on the Function Report as they relate to your personal hygiene to discredit and brazenly dismiss this entire functional subsection as moderately limiting. They use those specific responses to sidestep the remaining criterion associated with the ability to adapt or manage oneself. It is unconscionable. Still think you can do this alone?
As stated, the new form has broken the questions down into sections. Section C is quite lengthy, making it the meat of the form. These questions, seek information about your daily activities asking you questions about the care of family members, animals, other people, and other people’s animals. Yes, you read that right!
They go on to ask you about your meals, house and yard work, getting around, shopping, money, etc. The biggest change in this section can be found on page 7. There, it asks about your social activities, probing as to the amount of time you’re spending on a computer or a smart phone. It asks about your video, You Tube ®. Netflix ®, chatting, texting, email, etc. This is where social media and the time you spend on it can play a critical role in your claim. It is not uncommon for either DDS personnel, or the Judges to view your social media profiles.
Section D, which starts on page 8, goes into your information about your abilities, asking questions about concentration, sitting, lifting, getting along with others, etc. One of the important questions of this section is the question about medical devices. They ask about your use of crutches, hearing aids, wheelchair etc. While most of our Clients can’t find an Artificial Voice box at their local pharmacy, they can find a cane. And it is our position, that these devices best be prescribed by your doctors if you plan on using them. Over the years, we’ve had many a Judge ask the following question at the ALJ hearings:
“Counsel, I see that your client is using a cane. Can you show me where in the exhibit file that cane was prescribed?”
If it hasn’t been prescribed, nor any reference to it in the medical records, it’s an immediate hurdle we have to overcome. These are the types of things that we will consult with you during the course of your claim. They may seem trivial, but on the contrary, their critical.
We can go on and on, with each and every question, but the important thing is don’t rush through this form, and be very careful of your responses. As we stated earlier, many Attorneys and non-attorney representatives don’t give this form the time of day let alone the attention it deserves. Years ago, this was essentially our protocol as well. We would instruct our clients to do the best they can, and then send the completed form over to us. We would then forward it on to DDS. Not anymore! Cases can be won and lost based on these responses.
It’s not uncommon for clients to hire us after they have completed the Initial and/or Reconsideration phases of the SSDI claims process. By the time we get to review these Function Reports, its too late. In preparing our clients for the hearing, their responses to our probing questions are not consistent with these Function Reports. They often tell us that they didn’t understand the question. Once again, this too was by design. Don’t try that at home. If you’re not represented and want our help, call us today.
At SSLG, we take the time to go over this form with each and every one of our clients until the client is satisfied that he/she has answered the questions truthfully, and with the appropriate context and color that these questions and more importantly, these responses deserve.
The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 is no match for our technology. As part of our superior and advanced platform, we have overhauled this functionality, and this updated form is now available for our clients using speech-to-text technology. As a client, we will walk you through this form while you’re using our technology. You can speak directly into our platform and answer these responses, truthfully, with the appropriate context and color, and without the restriction of five lines. When were done, together we’ll edit your responses for appropriate grammar, and then we will forward the completed form on to DDS. When we do, we’ll alert the Agency that you completed this form, using our proprietary speech to text technology. This will dampen their attempt to conclude you put keyboard to paper for several hours in completing this. We will prove that you answered these questions by speaking into your smart device and answered these questions truthfully.
In many instances, you’ll be asked to complete a Function Report at the Initial level of the SSDI claims process. And if they deny the case, and you file a Reconsideration appeal, you’ll be sent the same Function Report a second time. The DDS Examiner will often send a Function Report to other people in your personal circle. They call this the Third-Party Function Report and once again, there are different versions of it. The official version is SSA-3380. It too was overhauled in June 2020.
We find this a complete waste of time, because very often the Third-Party Function Report will be mailed to someone that lives with you, and those responses that indicate and stress your limitations are summarily ignored by the evaluators and the Judges. It is up to us as your Attorney to stress that others in your household have observed and lived with these limitations. It is our job to stress that the limitations listed on those Function Reports are consistent with the statements you are making to your treating sources about your diagnosis and treatment. In fact, when you file a claim and the Agency asks if there is someone that knows about your condition, you should list a good friend or someone who lives with you at the Initial Claim stage, and someone who doesn’t live with you at the Reconsideration stage. All of it is an intricate puzzle that you have to take the time to piece together by giving each piece the attention it deserves.
Anything worth analyzing is worth over analyzing. Let’s read some examples, because as always, we can’t resist:
….The medical evidence shows that although the Claimant has complained of pain. He/She retains adequate strength in both his/her hands. He/she is able to complete activities of daily living without assistance, such as light cooking, eating (yes, eating!), and caring for basic personal hygiene. Therefore, the requirements of (Social Security Listing) Listing 1.02 are not met
Here’s Another: …. In addition, he/she is able to complete a range of activities that are indicative of at least some ability to understand, remember, and apply information. In particular, the Claimant’s Function Report indicates that he/she is able to medical appointments (sic), watch television, play video games, do crossword puzzles, tend to basic personal care tasks, prepare simple meals, wash dishes, shop for groceries, handle personal finances, including a checkbook. He/she would be able despite emotional difficulties be able (sic) to remember understand, and carry out simple, routine tasks with one or two-step instructions.
That’s funny, we remember seeing those tasks listed somewhere. Oh yes, the Function Report!
Here are other examples.
Treatment notes reflect a history of the sub–optimally controlled obstructive sleep apnea. Although the record reflects complaints of lack of restorative sleep and fatigue, the record also indicates that the claimant exercises regularly, has traveled abroad, and is the primary caretaker for his/her young child.
…..During the (SSA) Consultative Examination, the examiner noted euthymic mood, with pleasant and affable effect. He concluded that the claimant presents with no clinically significant mental health limitations. In addition, the claimant reported that he/she goes for walks, attends church services, visit the library, and shops at the supermarket and hardware store (Exhibit 5E)
There’s the reference to the E exhibits….The Function Report!!!
….The claimant stated that his/her pain level is regularly a 6-7 on a10 point scale. He/she has 3-4 hip pain on the right, but no pain on the left. He/she uses a cane for ambulation occasionally when he/she takes short walks. The Claimant testified that his/her hip pops and he/she has fallen in the past. He/she uses heat on a daily basis, and ice a few times a month. He/she lies down constantly and elevates his/her feet. He/she can lift 10 pounds. He/she can sit for one hour. He/she can walk for 20 minutes. He/she drives daily for 10 to 20 minutes. He/she has irritability, crying spells, and difficulty with memory and concentration. He/she can read a book, cook and clean, and do household chores. He/she goes to movies and concerts occasionally and goes on the computer daily for 30 to 40 minutes.
We can go on and on with pages of examples, but that would be piling on. The bottom line is that this SSA Function Report is by far, the most critical form in the entire process. We hope to have convinced you of how critical this analysis is, and how important it is to complete these reports and give them the time, dedication, and attention, they deserve. Don’t try to do this alone. Call the Social Security Law Group today. 800-909-7754
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