Function Report- SSA 3373 for Social Security Disability and SSI Application

Why is it important to understand The Functional Report SSA- 3373?  Besides your application, disability report and medical records, Social Security uses your responses to other questionnaires to determine whether you are disabled within the Social Security’s definition of the term.  Most used of these questionnaires is the Function Report- SSA 3373.  For many claimants, it is a difficult form.  Why?  It asks broad questions about your life and the response time to answer is short, usually 10 days.   While it is prepared by you, and not a “professional”, it is an important form.  While your response will likely not “win” your case, it can cause your application to fail. 

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What Is Function Report For?

Why does SSA ask that you fill out such forms in a Social Security Disability claim?  The purpose is to learn what kind of impact your medically determined impairment is actually having on your daily life.  A diagnosis alone does not mean there is a severe disability entitling the applicant to SSDI or SSI benefits.  We have all known people with serious afflictions, such as bipolar disorder, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, HIV and/or a myriad of other severe conditions work productively for many years despite their diagnosis/es.  To be medically eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the applicant must be able to prove a medically determined impairment that severely impacts on their ability to work for a minimum of twelve (12) months, and the severity of that disability has to be such that they cannot return to their prior work or any other work that they would be expected to do based on their residual functional capacity.  (Sorry, that was a lot of SSA terms that is covered in other articles on this website see am I disabled). 

How to Answer Function Report Questions

How should you respond to the questions set out in the function report?  Honestly, as if under oath and with self-insight.  This is far easier said than done.   Despite what skeptics think, it has been my experience that most claimants understate their disability; they tend to inflate their abilities, not their disabilities.   Why?  Shame, embarrassment, lack of insight can all be identified as causes. 

Below are some of the questions I find claimants have difficulty with, along with some guidance that may help you as you go through this process.  While your situation is unique to you, where appropriate, I offer example answers based on a hypothetical claimant, a 38 year woman with multiple sclerosis.  Remember, your responses should be based on your experiences alone. 

Question:  “Describe what you do from the time you wake up until going to bed.”
Comment:  This is a horrible question.  If I were to truly answer this question in detail, I would need at least 6 pieces of paper.  Social Security gives you about 3-4 lines for your response.  So, how do you answer?  I recommend you accept that you have only a few lines and give a general description of what you do on a typical day, assuming you have typical days.  Here is what our hypothetical claimant might say:
Example Response:  Days vary.  Get up after husband and daughter have left.  I’ll attempt a quick shower; this frequently causes dizziness, and I have to lie down for 15 -30 minutes.  After a light snack, I will try to do a light chore.  I’ll then lie down till it is time to pick up daughter from school.  On some days, I might be able to help with dinner.  After quiet family time, will go to bed around 9pm.   
Comment:  This answer does not fully answer the question.  There is no room on the form to fully respond.  No matter, the questions are repetitive; by the time you have completed the rest of the form, the daily activities will have been fully explored.
  

Question:  “Do you take care of anyone else such as a wife/husband, children, grandchildren, parents, friend, other?  If "YES," for whom do you care, and what do you do for them?”

Comment:  For some, this is a gut wrenching questions because there is a lot of guilt and pride attached to the response.  What does this guilt translate to?  For some, a very misleading answer.  For instance, I had one lady, nearly house-bound by nerve pain and anger issues write “I am the sole caretaker to my elderly father.”  Needless to say, she was not the man’s caretaker; her contribution was merely to make medical appointments for him once every three (3) months and to ask him if he took his medication when she spoke with him on the telephone.  The result?   She was denied benefits.  The Claims Adjudicator (AC) was convinced that her father was disabled, not her.  A claims adjudicator is the person that decides if you are disabled medically for Social Security Disability or SSI.

Many people, especially mothers of young children, write with pride of how they take care of their children and husband despite their disabilities.   Social Security may think that this is lovely, but they will not pay benefits on such a claim.   Social Security has to find you are unable to work due to your disability, not due to the fact that you need to take care of others and have no further resources/energy to work on top of that.  So, put aside your pride and delve into what you are actually doing – I am not asking you to minimize what you do – I am just looking for an honest response. 

Example Response:  We have three children.  I do what I can.   My husband had to change his work hours so he can be home by 4:30 to make dinner for us.  He takes the kids to school.  I usually can pick them up;  their school is within 2 miles of our house.  On some days, I have to ask a friend to do the pick up because I am too tired.  When they come home, I will supervise them and may help with homework.

Question:  PERSONAL CARE (Check here 0 if NO PROBLEM with personal care.)
Comment:  A lot of people who must dress slowly, or cannot tie their own shoes, or must have someone else button their buttons inappropriately check “No Problem” when they should explain what is going on with them.  Is there a limit to what should be said?  I do not believe so.  If your hand cramping keeps you from holding a spoon reliably – put that on the form; if you have a hard time sitting on and/or rising from a chair and/or the toilet- put that on the form; if you have to lie down after taking a shower or wear bedclothes most days – put that on the form.

Question:  List household chores, both indoors and outdoors, that you are able to do. 
Comment:  Your response needs more than what they ask for.
Example Response:  On best days, can usually manage light cleaning for 15-30 minutes followed by rest.  Generally cannot manage more than 2 hours of cleaning in week.  Can’t vacuum.  Can manage to fold laundry on better days.

Question:  How often do you go outside? 
Comment:   In that this question could be referring to your going into your backyard or going on lengthy social functions, your response needs to redefine the question. 
Example Response:  I leave my house 2-4 days a week, depending on my medical appointments and how I am feeling.

Question:  When going out, how do you travel? (Check all that apply.)  The 0 you see before each answer is a box on the actual form that can be checked if you do it.
0 Walk  0 Drive a car   0 Ride in a car  0 Ride a bicycle
0 Use public transportation   0 Other (Explain)
Comment:  Your response needs more than what they ask for. Put your check marks where appropriate and add a narrative statement to explain what needs to be explained.  For instance, many claimants are still driving, and should put a check mark at “Drive a car”.   However, if you do drive with restrictions add that to your response.  It does not matter that there is no line for the response.  Just write it in. 
Example Response:  I only drive in my neighborhood, and only before it starts getting dark.

Question:  When going out, can you go out alone?  0 Yes    0 No
Comment:  Again, this is a question that should likely be redefined in your response.  A lot of people can go out alone for some tasks but not for others. 
Example Response:  I go alone to pick up my daughter at school.  I need someone to come with me when I go on medical appointments because I get confused, and the doctors’ offices are too far for me to drive to and from.

Question:  Has your ability to handle money changed since the illnesses, injuries, or conditions began?   If "YES," explain how the ability to handle money has changed. 

Comment:  About half the claimants I know who have responded to this question without my input write that their ability to handle money has changed because they don’t have any.  While this is true, it is not the information your Claims Adjudicator is looking for.  She wants to know if you are still able to responsibly handle money.   So, if the truth is that you are forgetting to respond to bills and/or making mistakes on your checking account, you need to put that information on your form.

 

Question:  Do you have any problems getting along with family, friends, neighbors, or others?

Comment:  Each situation is unique.  I have found that many people who self-isolate check that they have no problems getting along with others.   But, if they are self-isolating, it is because they do have this problem getting along with others, and should check “yes”.
Example Response:  I am angered and frustrated by how quickly I lose track of conversations.  I become irritable so I avoid people.

Question:   Check any of the following items that your illnesses, injuries, or conditions affect:
0 Lifting 0  Walking  0  Stair Climbing  0  Understanding
0 Squatting  0 Sitting  0 Seeing   0  Following Instructions
0 Bending  0 Kneeling  0  Memory   0  Using Hands
0  Standing  0 Talking  0  Completing Tasks 0  Getting Along With Others
0  Reaching  0 Hearing  0  Concentration
Comment:  Many claimants feel overwhelmed by the idea of checking off too much.  They end up only checking off those problems areas related to their primary diagnosis.  Social Security’s evaluation is supposed to be based on the entire situation, not just the worse diagnosis.  You should check off and explain (briefly is fine) all the items that your conditions impact upon.

The Remarks Section:  At the end of the form, you will have a page to add in your remarks.  This will give you the opportunity of further explaining the limitations you have as well as explain how you managed to answer all the questions on the form within 10 days.
Example: 
I tried to finish this form quickly, but I would start to write and my hand would cramp up. Eventually I had to ask my mother to help me.  I told her my thoughts, and she wrote them down.   We would work on the form for as long as I could, usually 15 to 30 minutes at a time.  We finished it on the fourth day.

Final Comments on Function Report SSA- 3733

Final Comments:  After you have completed the form, read it over.  Does it give the reader insight into who you are and how you function now?  If it does and gives insight to the reader as to what you are going through on a day to day basis, you can send it in.  If not, try again.  Enlisting the help of someone you feel comfortable with sharing this information with, may prove helpful.  Keep in mind this form will be in your file and it is sometimes even read and used by ALJs at the hearing stage a year or two later.  Keep a copy of this form for yourself, so you can read what you wrote before your Social Security Disability or SSI hearing since you will most likely not remember a year or two later.  You might be wondering why this is important.  ALJs will sometimes refer to this form to point out inconsistencies in your testimony.  In other words, they will ask you a question that was on this form and if your answer is different they may infer that you are exaggerating or worse not telling the truth.  This is quite unfair in many ways, because your condition may have become worse or slightly improved in some area over that period of time.  Another possibility is that you are reading this article after you have already filled out the form and sent it in to SSA and made one or some of the common mistakes people make when filling out this form.  For example, suppose you answered the question “can you go out alone” with “no” and no explanation.  When in fact, you only go out alone to pick up your daughter from school, which is a block away from your home.  The ALJ may ask the question “do you pick up your daughter from school”?  You answer “yes” because it is true, but the ALJ may then make the assumption that you can go out alone and you were exaggerating or not telling the truth when you filled out the functional report Form 3373.  If you read your functional report before the hearing you will know why the question is being asked and be able to explain that the school is a block away and it is the only time you leave your home by yourself.  This example also further explains why it is important to fill out this form fully and correctly if you have not already sent in this form.   I try to explain every step of the process so that those who want to handle their case without a lawyer can give themselves a better chance of winning, but this is also an example of why one should consider getting a lawyer even at the application stage of the process.  Not knowing what certain questions are asking for, or how to answer questions on the Functional Report Form 3373 which was explained in great detail in this web-page is one reason many more people do not win their SSD or SSI claims at application and can even hurt their claim at the later stages as well.

Tracey Cahn, Esq., a very experienced Social Security Disability lawyer who works at my law firm wrote this article.  This was the first webpage written by anyone besides myself on my website and she will continue to write for the website which will help to continue to add new information and new ideas into how to help you win your Social Security Disability or SSI claim.

We have attempted to provide up to date and accurate information, however the information in this site is not guaranteed.  No attorney client realtionship exist.  The information in this site is not a substitute for consultation with a quilified attorney.
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If you are having a hard time filing out your SSDI or SSI application forms and forms like the function report feel free to call us at 1-877-527-5529.