What Is an ADL Call (for Social Security Disability)?

Beware if Social Security calls you about your activities of daily living.

ADL stands for "activities of daily living," which are simply the normal, basic activities that most people must engage in as a requirement of living. They include personal hygiene (bathing, dressing), meal preparation (breakfast, lunch, dinner), shopping (grocery and other shopping), and standard home maintenance activities such as sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, laundry, and dish washing.

In processing Social Security disability and SSI claims, claims examiners at DDS (Disability Determination Services) will often call claimants (applicants) to gather information on their ability to perform such activities of daily living. These phone calls are known as ADL calls.

What Is the Purpose of ADL Calls?

The purpose of an ADL call is to discover the extent to which a Social Security disability claimant is significantly restricted by a medical condition or impairment. A claims examiner often "fills in the gaps" regarding a claimant's physical limitations with information gathered in such contacts.

Unfortunately, ADL calls are typically used against disability claimants. In fact, they are often conducted after a claims examiner (or a claims examiner's supervisor) has already determined that a claim should be denied. In such instances, the claims examiner will subtly phrase the ADL questions for the purpose of gathering just the right responses so that the denial of a claim can be more easily justified.

Who Receives ADL Calls?

Sometimes claims examiners make ADL calls to a claimant's neighbors, friends, or relatives. And in some cases an examiner might call a past employer. The claimant has usually provided the contact information to allow such calls on the disability application. For this reason, it is usually wise for disability claimants to keep everyone within their circle of contacts up-to-date regarding their medical condition and status.

Learn more about ADLs and the importance of the ADL form.

By: Tim Moore, former Social Security disability claims examiner