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4 Things Not to Say in a Disability Interview

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
September 19, 2023  ·  4 min read
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Once you’ve submitted your disability application, the next step could be a phone interview with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Not everyone has to complete this interview as part of the application. If you receive an interview request, it is helpful to prepare answers to questions about your medical conditions, work history, and finances.

To help your disability application continue moving in the right direction, it’s important to answer these questions to the best of your ability. Here are a few things you should never say or do in a disability interview — and what you should say instead.

A lawyer can help you prepare for a disability interview.

What is a disability interview?

A disability interview is a phone call where a representative from the SSA asks SSDI or SSI applicants questions about their application. If you apply in person at an office, you might have a face-to-face disability interview. In most cases, the SSA will ask you to schedule time for a phone interview.

The disability interview is different than a hearing. A disability hearing occurs later in the application process to appeal an initial denial, and it takes place in front of a judge. A disability interview, on the other hand, typically happens early in the process and involves talking with an SSA representative over the phone about your application.

Common Social Security disability interview questions

The questions you’ll answer in a disability interview are similar to the questions on the general disability application. If the SSA schedules an interview, a claims representative will ask you questions related to the information on your application. 

A disability interview typically includes questions about your medical history, work history, and finances, such as:

  • When did your medical condition first affect your ability to work?

  • When did you last work?

  • What is your medication and treatment history?

  • Which doctors do you see?

  • What are your sources of income?

Get more tips on how to answer disability questions with our step-by-step guide to the disability application process.

What not to say in a disability interview

Knowing what to avoid saying in a disability interview is just as important as knowing what to say. Here are a few things you should never say or do in a disability interview:

  1. Don’t lie about your symptoms

  2. Don’t talk about undiagnosed conditions

  3. Don’t go on tangents

  4. Don’t be rude to your interviewer

1. Don’t lie about your symptoms 

When answering questions about your symptoms and functioning, be honest. Describe what your symptoms are like on your average or worst days — not your better days. This will give the SSA a more accurate picture of how your conditions affect your life. Before your interview, take notes on your symptoms and how your conditions impact your ability to do daily tasks and work activities. Make sure you’re being consistent with answers on your application. You can provide updated information but do not exaggerate.

2. Don’t talk about undiagnosed conditions 

If you haven’t been formally diagnosed with a condition by your doctor, don’t mention it during your disability interview. It’s best to answer questions only about the conditions listed on your initial disability application to avoid confusing the SSA. You can talk about any diagnosed conditions you are actively being treated for and that prevent you from working.

3. Don’t go on tangents

Your disability interview is not the place to share personal stories or vent about your condition. Going on tangents might unintentionally hurt your case, since you may share information that makes your condition seem better than it is. It is important to stay on topic and answer the SSA’s questions as succinctly as you can. 

4. Don’t be rude

Finally, you should never respond rudely to SSA workers. Applying for disability can be a frustrating and discouraging process, but being rude or angry will not help your case. Stay as calm and professional as possible while you provide honest, accurate answers to all the questions. Since the SSA interviewer won’t be a medical professional, they might not know much about your condition and could ask questions that seem unrelated or even insensitive. Do your best to give clear answers without getting caught up in how your interviewer asks them.

Get help with your disability interview

A disability interview requires time, effort, and preparation. A disability attorney can help support you through every stage of the application process, including the disability interview. A lawyer can help you prepare answers to strengthen your case and advise you about specific topics to avoid. You don’t pay anything until you win benefits. 

At Atticus, we provide legal advice at no cost and can match you with a disability lawyer who is experienced in handling cases like yours. Take our short disability benefits quiz to get help (getting matched is free and you pay nothing until after you win benefits).

Triple your chances of getting approved. Get matched with a top disability lawyer today.

Frequently asked questions about applying for disability

Where do I apply for disability benefits?

You can apply for Social Security disability benefits online through the SSA website. You can also apply in-person by visiting your local SSA office. Get step-by-step help in our breakdown of the disability application process.

What forms do I need to fill out to apply for disability?

Start with the main disability benefits application form (SSA-16). You’ll need to fill out additional forms, including a work history report on your previous work experience and a function report on how your condition impacts your life. The SSA will also ask for medical records and other relevant personal information.

When should I apply for disability benefits?

We recommend applying for benefits as soon as you know you’ll be unable to work. The application process takes a while — a year or longer for the average person. The sooner you submit your application, the sooner you can get your benefits.

What conditions qualify for disability benefits?

Any medical condition that leaves you unable to work can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You’ll need to give the SSA medical records that clearly show how your condition affects you and why you can’t work because of it. Learn more about conditions that qualify for disability.

Do I need a lawyer to apply for disability?

A lawyer isn’t required and you can win benefits without a lawyer. However, the process is complicated and technical — especially when you get to a court hearing. Working with a good lawyer triples your chances of winning an appeal.

How much do SSDI and SSI pay?

It depends on which benefits you qualify for. SSDI pays up to $3,822 per month and SSI pays up to $943 per month in 2024. Your exact check is based on your income and tax history if you get SSDI, and your other monthly income if you get SSI. Read more about how much you can make on SSDI and SSI.

Related resources:

What Conditions Qualify for Disability?

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

Everything You Should Know About Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

By Sarah Aitchison

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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