Applying for disability benefits can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of paperwork with confusing and intrusive questions. At some points, you may feel like the process is governed by mysterious rules that everyone except you seems to know. Don’t worry. We’re here to help you get through it.
In this article, we’ll cover the Social Security Function Report (Form SSA-3337). This is one of the main forms you’ll need to fill out and your answers will have a big effect on your overall application.
We talked to our team of vetted, qualified lawyers, and compiled their advice into this step-by-step guide. There are also dozens of sample answers and tips to help get you through the Function Report as smoothly as possible.
You can file a claim for disability benefits by submitting an application to the Social Security Administration (SSA). There are two main kinds of benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is available if you’ve worked and paid taxes for years but now you can’t work anymore and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), available to people with low-income and little to no work history. (Learn more about SSDI vs. SSI.)
To apply, start by completing the main disability benefits application (Form SSA-16). It asks more basic questions about your health, work history, and why you’re applying. You’ll also need to fill out a work history report (Form SSA-3369-BK) and likely a third-party function report (Form SSA-3380-BK) along with a work activity report (Form SSA-821-BK). Depending on your situation, the SSA may request some other questionnaires and paperwork.
For more help getting started, try our guide on how to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
The Function Report is a 10-page form that asks about your daily activities and how your health conditions affect your ability to work or go through life. It’s also one of the main forms you’ll fill out when you apply for Social Security disability benefits.
It’s also one of the most important forms in the application. The SSA will look closely at your answers because the Function Report requires you to clearly explain the ways your disability impacts you. They will also compare your answers on this functionality report with your answers on other forms to make sure your answers appear consistent and honest.
The third-party function report (Form SSA-3380-BK) allows you to have someone else describe the symptoms they've seen you display and how your medical condition impacts your ability to work.
While the third-party report can help you build a stronger application, it's important that you choose someone who understands your condition and how it affects your day-to-day life. Choosing someone who doesn't know much about your condition may not help your application if the SSA reaches out to them with further questions and they either don't know the answers or give answers that contradict something you've said.
Honestly, most applicants are better off bolstering their medical documentation and working with a disability lawyer to help them win their case. But if the SSA or DDS requests that you fill out the third-party function report, you should fill it out to avoid further delays in processing your application.
The questions on the third-party report are very similar to the normal Function Report, so all the advice also applies.
Related article: How to help a loved one apply for disability
As general advice, your goal is to provide honest, concise, and consistent answers across your entire application. But how do you do that? Here are the top 9 Function Report tips from our lawyers. We’ve also included examples to demonstrate things you should avoid.
This is one of the most important pieces of advice we can offer you. As you complete your benefits application, it’s critical that you keep your answers consistent. And not just on this form. Once you’ve filled everything out, make sure the answers are consistent across all the forms. Re-use the same text in different forms if it helps.
The SSA will check for answers that seem to contradict each other. For example, if you can’t work because a condition restricts your motion, but you also say that you spend hours playing with a toddler at home, that will raise a red flag for the reader.
To make filling out the Function Report easier, we suggest starting with Question 20, in Section D. This long, multi-part question asks for detailed information about your abilities. If you start with question 20, your answer can make a great roadmap that you refer back to when completing the rest of the form.
When you’re done with the function report. Check again that all your answers are consistent with question 20.
Take as much space as you need to answer a question fully, but try to avoid volunteering extra information about your life, your disability, or work. Only say what’s truly needed for the SSA to understand your answer. The SSA is only concerned with your eligibility for benefits and giving too much information won’t help.
Say “I can only sit for 20 to 30 minutes without pain,” instead of “I haven’t been able to watch a movie with my family in 6 years.”
But include anything necessary to understand your condition, like “I can only keep up with household laundry because my daughter does all the lifting, loading, and unloading.”
When discussing how your disability affects you, talk about your abilities on average days or on your worst days. Don’t try to make yourself sound more capable than you really are by talking about the symptoms on your best days.
For example, question 11 asks if your condition affects your sleep. If the answer is yes but only one or two times per week, on your worst days, then that’s what you should say. Saying no because you can sleep fine most nights won’t help your case.
Don’t say anything on your application unless it’s true. Also avoid making your condition sound worse than it is. For example, don’t say your pain level is 10/10 every day unless it truly is. If the person reading your application sees something that sounds false, they will flag your application.
Say “My pain is 8/10 on my worst days, and 5/10 4-6 days a week,” instead of “I have constant 10/10 pain that keeps me from living my life.”
Say “I am hospitalized 3-4 times a month for episodes of severe pain,” instead of “My pain is 10/10 every day and requires hospitalization.”
If the SSA requests additional or supplemental information, submit it as soon as possible. Ideally, send the information within 10 days. Waiting any longer could delay your application. As it is, an SSDI application takes more than two years, on average.
Share all of your disabilities even if they aren’t the main reason you’re applying and even if they’re mild. But only talk about the health conditions that prevent you from working. You may have other conditions that affect your daily life, but the SSA doesn’t need to hear about them on this form.
Mild anxiety or cognitive issues can be included since they may prevent you from working certain types of jobs, even if they aren’t the main reason you’re applying.
But high cholesterol, eczema, or hypertension may not affect your ability to work, even if severe, so they probably shouldn’t be included.
Only include disabilities and health conditions that have been diagnosed by a doctor and that you’re being actively treated for. While it’s true that your doctor can’t determine eligibility for disability benefits, the SSA needs to know that a professional is treating your condition. If you aren’t getting treatment for something, the SSA may suspect that it isn’t actually serious and deny your claim.
When explaining your symptoms, mention your current treatment plan and how symptoms still exist with that treatment.
Never leave fields blank or unanswered. The SSA may consider your application incomplete and discard it if answers are missing. If a question doesn’t apply to you, write “none” or “N/A.” If you ever don’t know the answer to a question, write “don’t know.” It’s better if the SSA has to follow up with more questions than if they simply deny your application.
The Function Report is a 10-page form with five sections and 22 total questions. Not all of the questions are complicated or long, but it will take you some time to go through everything.
Let’s get started on how to answer the disability function report.
The first section of SSA-3373 asks for basic contact information and about your living situation.
Start by giving the SSA the basic contact information they need to identify and communicate with you.
1. Your name
2. Social Security number
3. Daytime telephone number where someone can call you or at least leave a message for you if they have questions
Next, give the SSA some details on your living situation. They’ll ask you:
Be honest about your living situation because the SSA does consider whether you can live on your own and handle day-to-day chores. If you usually live with someone but you say on your application that you live alone, the SSA may think you can handle daily life better than you actually can.
Section B is only one question. it requires you to give the SSA a brief description of the conditions and symptoms you are dealing with.
Five pieces of advice to remember:
Learn more: What health conditions qualify for disability benefits?
Section C asks many detailed questions about your daily activities. It’s meant to give the SSA a comprehensive picture of how you cope with the physical and mental demands of life.
In this section, you should explain how your disability negatively impacts your daily life. Talk about your limitations and not how you’ve managed to succeed or thrive in spite of your health.
Also be very specific in your answers. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t give a clear explanation, the SSA will assume you did the most demanding version of the activity.
Two pieces of advice for Section C:
Normally, when someone asks what you did in a day, you’ll tell them about everything you accomplished, like working, reading, or visiting friends. But that’s not the information you should include here.
The SSA needs to know about what you do throughout the day to manage and live with your condition.These things may not seem worth mentioning in a normal conversation, but they’re important for proving your limitations.
Give a brief list of your daily schedule or activities. Include things like “3-hour nap” as well as your other daily activities.
The next few questions ask if you take care of any pets, children, or adults, such as a spouse or elderly parent. If the answer is yes, you need to explain what you do to care for them and whether anyone needs to help you care for them.
As you answer, be specific and use the extra space on the “Remarks” page if you need it. But avoid exaggeration. You don't want to give the impression that you spend all day caring for others. Otherwise the reviewer may think you just can’t work because of your caretaking responsibilities.
This question can be hard, because no one wants to admit that they can’t care for others as well as they’d like to. But it’s extremely important that you’re honest about your limitations. The SSA is not judging your caretaking skills so don’t worry about the SSA thinking you’re a bad parent or pet owner.
Unless you explicitly admit something that’s clear neglect (such as failing to feed or bathe a child for extended periods of time), there is no possibility of your disability application causing you to be investigated for neglect.
Are you applying for benefits for you child? Read our guide to SSI for children.
Your answer to this question should repeat and reinforce the answers you gave in questions 5 and 6. Most of the abilities you list here should relate to work. It’s okay to mention your personal life if it’s truly relevant to show how your disability limits you.
If your illnesses, injuries, or conditions affect your sleep, explain how. Again, keep your answer about your disability. For example, it isn’t relevant here if you have trouble sleeping because you’re worried about money, or because you’re restless from being stuck in the house.
These two questions ask more specifically about how your disability affects your ability to handle basic tasks related to personal care, hygiene, and cooking.
For many applicants, this section can feel very personal and even embarrassing. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable talking about activities you struggle to handle on your own. But this is a place to be very clear about your limitations, so that you can qualify for the benefits you need.
As you answer these questions, remember to describe your abilities based on your worst or average days. Explain if you’ve modified any activities to make them more achievable. Also be realistic and make sure your answers sound believable. For example, if you say that you can’t prepare meals at all, how are you feeding yourself?
These questions help assess physical abilities like lifting and walking, as well as some cognitive abilities like paying for purchases or finding your way around your community.
When answering these questions, remember:
This question is another common source of confusion for applicants. The SSA isn’t asking if you can make ends meet — whether you have the money available to pay your bills, keep a savings account, and so on.
Instead, the SSA is asking whether you have the memory and cognitive ability for money-related tasks.
Some things to consider:
Need help making ends meet? We've compiled resources for people with disabilities.
When you talk about your hobbies, focus on how you can’t enjoy your hobbies any longer because of your health conditions. The SSA doesn’t need a complete list of your hobbies. For anything you do list, be careful that they don’t contradict your abilities elsewhere.
Examples of answers to avoid:
Like the previous question, be extra careful not to contradict your answers elsewhere on the form. If the SSA thinks you have more capacity for hobbies and leisure than for work, that will hurt your credibility.
Also note that the first checkbox, for spending time with others in person, does not include people you live with.
Example of an answer to avoid:
In this section, you’ll describe how your disability affects you in clear, simple terms. There are only three questions in this section, but take the time to fill them out accurately. Question 20, in particular, can serve as a good guide for how you answer the rest of your application.
As we suggested earlier, consider completing this section of the form first.
This is a long question that covers how your disabilities affect various physical and cognitive abilities. Some abilities covered include:
Double check your answers for accuracy. As you answer other parts of the form, also make sure they line up with your answers about the abilities listed here. It’s a good idea to reuse the exact text from your answers to this question on your answers to other questions.
Ideally, any of the medical devices listed here that you use should be prescribed by a doctor. If you use anything that a doctor didn’t prescribe to you or instruct you to use, your usage should still be consistent with your doctor’s diagnosis. For example, saying you use a hearing aid won’t help your case if your doctor has never documented that your health conditions affect your hearing.
The SSA is investigating if any of the side effects of your treatment contribute to your inability to work. While the SSA is less likely to consider side effects part of your disability, you should still mention them.
Definitely list medications and side effects that prevent you from working certain jobs. Examples would be dizziness or severe drowsiness.
Don’t include medications unrelated to your disability, or those without side effects. Also don’t include side effects unless they limit or stop you from working.
Not everyone needs to complete Section E. Use this section for answers you didn’t have enough space for earlier in the form. If you have any serious symptoms you weren’t able to bring up earlier (like hallucinations), you might want to mention them here too.
If all your answers to the other questions fit, you can just leave this section blank. (This is the only section that may be left blank.) If you don’t want to leave the remarks area fully blank, you can write “none,” “no remarks,” or “N/A.”
Do not use this section to talk more about your personal situation or to try convincing the reviewer that you should qualify for disability benefits.
Once you finish the function report, it’s important to double check your answers. Are all your answers consistent with the explanation you gave for question 20? If so, the next step is to submit the Function Report and the rest of your application documents.
If you filled out a physical version of the form, you can either drop it off in person at a local SSA office or you can call the SSA at (800) 772-1213 to give them all your answers over the phone. Otherwise, you can submit your forms online through the SSA website.
After the Function Report and the rest of your application are submitted, the SSA will review your claim and reach back out with a decision. Unfortunately, the SSA takes months to review applications and there isn't much you can do to speed up the process.
If the SSA ever asks for additional information or documents, make sure to respond as quickly as possible. Waiting more than 10 days to respond could delay your application.
At some point you may also need to do a Consultative Exam (CE). This usually happens if the SSA doesn't have enough medical information to confirm your diagnosis. The SSA's disability examiner will send you a CE notice with a phone number you should call to confirm your appointment. At the CE, you’ll meet with a doctor from Social Security.
Related: 5 Signs That You Will Be Approved for Disability
You can check the claim’s status through the SSA online portal. Updates may still take days or even months to show up, but you can see if any issues arise.
It’s possible to complete your whole disability application on your own. However, getting professional help could make the entire process much easier. If you do want help filling out the Function report or any other disability forms, we recommend working with a disability lawyer.
A lawyer may sound unnecessary for disability benefits, but you’re three times more likely to win your case and get the benefits you need if you have a lawyer. They can answer all your questions, help you fill out forms, and gather necessary documentation.
You should especially get a lawyer if your claim is denied. Appealing and presenting your case in front of a judge isn’t the easiest thing to do alone. Legal representation will greatly increase your chances of a successful appeal.
Atticus can connect with an experienced disability lawyer if you need help. Our services are free and you won’t have to pay any lawyer unless they win your case. Start with our 2-minute disability questionnaire and one of our team members will reach out to talk about next steps.
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