Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is an impersonal process at first. During the first two levels of review (the initial application and reconsideration), you fill out Social Security forms and wait. You don't speak with the people who decide if you're disabled. At the third appeal level, the Social Security hearing, you finally get a chance to speak directly with a judge about why you can't work. But it takes a year or more to get a hearing scheduled.
Some Social Security forms ask about your medical problems, but they allow little room for explanation. For example, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to complete a "Function Report" (SSA-3373) at the application level. The function report asks you about your day-to-day limitations. But only the last section of this report, Section E, allows you about a paragraph or so to explain why you're disabled. You usually need more than a paragraph to describe the limitations that your medical condition causes.
An optional, little-known Social Security form, SSA-795 ("Statement of Claimant or Other Person"), allows you plenty of additional space to explain why you can't work, in your own words—potentially increasing your chances of approval. This article explains how to complete your "Disability Statement" using this form.
A Disability Statement is a description of your limitations that you put on Form SSA-795. The form allows you a full page to explain why you can't work. Most people who apply for Social Security benefits are unaware of it, so they miss out on the chance to explain how their disability limits their personal and work activities. Submitting a "Disability Statement" about why you can't work could improve your chance of approval for SSDI or SSI benefits.
You can submit an SSA-795 at any time while your Social Security benefits claim is pending. If possible, though, submit this statement at the same time that you file your initial application.
Here are some technical pointers for you or someone helping you to complete your Disability Statement:
There is no formula for what you should write in your Disability Statement. You should explain how your medical issues limit your day-to-day. Ask yourself, "What would someone need to know about my inability to work?"
An effective statement will answer some of the questions below:
Use your answers to these questions above to craft a paragraph explaining why you can't work.
You can start your statement any way you wish. You could begin with something like this:
You could also start by describing an accident, a traumatic event, or a new diagnosis that changed your life:
Click the sample SSA-795 form above to read what a Disability Statement might look like for an applicant with physical and emotional conditions.
Your Disability Statement doesn't need to be perfect, just to the point. Remember, it is optional. Plan to read through your statement a few times, correcting errors and simplifying it along the way.
When you're ready, have a trusted friend or family member read it. Ask them, "Is it clear?" and "Would it help a stranger understand my health problems?" If the answers are yes, then you're probably ready to submit your Disability Statement. If you have an attorney helping you with your Social Security benefits claim, ask your attorney for feedback as well.
Here are some additional tips:
Adding a Disability Statement on Form SSA-795 during your Social Security benefits claim is a wise decision. When done well, you increase your chances of having Social Security understand why you can't work and approving your application for benefits.
Published July 15, 2022
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