All Disability. All The Time.

How do you describe your daily activities for SSDI?

On Behalf of | Apr 16, 2024 | Social Security Disability |

A Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) hearing is your one chance to make your case for benefits directly before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who has the power to approve your claim – so you need to walk into that hearing prepared.

While ALJs are free to ask any kind of question they think is relevant, you can almost guarantee that you’ll be asked about your “activities of daily living,” or ADLs. This is one of the fundamental ways that ALJs (and medical professionals) assess how much someone’s disabilities affect them.

What are ADLs? How do you give the ALJ a clear picture?

These are the basic tasks that most people can handle on their own when they live independently. They include things like your ability to bathe and dress yourself, cook a meal and feed yourself, do your own shopping, handle household chores, care for your pets and manage basic social interactions. 

You want to describe the limitations caused by your condition to the ALJ with absolute clarity. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Be specific: Don’t say, “I can’t cook.” Instead, say things like, “I rely on pre-made food or cereal because I cannot stand long enough to prepare ingredients and cook a meal. My back pain requires me to sit and rest after only five or ten minutes.”
  • Compare the past to the present: Illustrate how your life has changed since you became disabled. For example, you might say something like, “I used to be very active and involved in my community and church, and I went to a lot of places with friends. Now, the pain makes it impossible for me to sit through a service or go on a trip. I go weeks without leaving home except for doctor’s visits.”
  • Mention the assistance you receive: If you rely on others to help you with various ADLs, make sure the judge knows it. For example, you may explain that you rely on your daughter to clean the house for you and do your shopping and your son to drive you to appointments because you can no longer manage those things yourself.

If you’re approaching an SSDI hearing, it’s wise not to go through the process alone. Professional guidance can make it easier to anticipate the ALJ’s questions and navigate the entire SSDI claims process.