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Tips When Completing Questionnaires Concerning Your Medical Condition


When completing medical questionnaires:

DON'T DELAY. Start working on the forms as soon as you receive them so you won't have to rush to get them returned before deadlines.

Be specific.  Be very specific in your answers. Include as many anecdotes and details as necessary to illustrate an answer. For example, if asked about how your condition affects your daily and work activities, be specific. Include specific activities and how they are affected. For an example of how to be specific, see Specifics Instead of Generalities: An Example.

Think "Bad Days." Complete the forms based on your bad days, rather than the good ones.

Complete the forms yourself.  Social Security prefers that you complete all forms yourself, no matter how messy that would make a form. If you cannot complete the form, ask the person who completes it for you to mention on the form that he or she completed it and to state why you were unable to complete the form yourself. For example, the person could write "I, Glenn Fleming, completed this form for Lenore. Lenore was unable to complete this form because of tremors caused by her medical condition."

Be legible. It is only important that your answers be legible -- not that they are neat. While you don't want to intentionally mess up the form, analysts say that they can tell a lot about a person's condition by the way the forms are completed.

Use black or dark blue ink.  Although it is generally not stated in the directions, it is preferable to use this type of ink. Light colors do not photocopy or scan as readily.

It is preferred not to be professionally neat.  If your forms are especially neat or typed so they look almost professional, explain why and how long it took to get your forms that way. For Example: This is my fourth draft of this form and it took four and a half hours to do it. 

Use additional sheets if necessary for thorough explanations. Identify them in case they get separated.  In case they get separated, each additional sheet should be numbered and include your name and Social Security number. It should be clear what question is being answered. Even repeat the question if necessary for clarity.

If you list anyone as a source to confirm any aspect of your medical condition and/or the impact on your work or daily life, it is advisable to tell them to expect to hear from Social Security. In fact, consider having a discussion with each of the people you name to remind them of your symptoms and how they have impacted your work or life.

It would be helpful to submit a statement from each named person about your symptoms and how they keep you from working or enjoying daily life. See Affidavits and Statements From Friends, Family and Co-Workers.

After completing a questionnaire, it is usually preferable not to submit it right away - unless that would mean you would miss a deadline.

  • It is generally advisable to think about your responses for a few days as you go about your routine. You may suddenly discover you're in the midst of accommodating a symptom and didn't realize it. Some of your symptoms may have been with you so long, and you have accommodated to them so well, that you forgot they are symptoms. These are the ones that will come to you as you set the form aside and continue with your regular activities for another day or two.
  • Have a friend, housemate, former co-worker or counselor who is aware of your condition and good with detail, review it to see if there are things you may have overlooked.
  • After a few days, review the questionnaire. Re-reading it may trigger other issues to be included.
  • Don't let this delay make you miss any deadline for returning the form.

Make photocopies of everything you submit to Social Security.

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