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Sample Questions: Disability Benefits and Mental Symptoms & Limitations

Sample Questions: Disability Benefits and Mental Symptoms & Limitations

If your disability involves mental symptoms, the questions that you will be asked will attempt to get you to talk about your symptoms. For example, after asking whether you have a specific symptom, you will be asked to explain or tell about it.

You want to talk freely about your symptoms so that the judge can make a good evaluation of your qualifications for disability benefits.


If stress tolerance is at issue, you will be questioned about the specific kinds of things that you find stressful.

There may be questions about examples of stressful things, and for descriptions of what happens to you when you are under stress (e.g., panicky feeling, terror, a feeling of impending doom, fight or flight response, trembling, shaking, palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, smothering feeling, choking, feeling faint, unsteady, sweaty, nausea, stomach ache, numbness, tingling, hot flashes, chills, hallucinations, flashbacks, fear of dying, fear of going crazy, fear of doing something uncontrolled).

Questions may relate to the following work demands that some people find stressful:

  • speed.
  • precision.
  • complexity.
  • deadlines.
  • working within a schedule.
  • making decisions.
  • exercising independent judgment.
  • completing tasks.
  • working with other people.
  • dealing with the public (strangers).
  • dealing with supervisors.
  • being criticized by supervisors.
  • simply knowing that work is supervised.
  • getting to work regularly.
  • remaining at work for a full day.
  • fear of failure at work.

The Social Security Administration often takes the position that routine repetitive work constitutes low stress work. But many people find one or more of the following aspects of such work to be stressful:

  • monotony of routine.
  • little latitude for decision-making.
  • lack of collaboration on the job.
  • no opportunity for learning new things.
  • underutilization of skills.
  • lack of meaningfulness of work.

Mental Residual Functional Capacity

You may be asked questions about your ability to deal with the following:

  • Understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions:
    • remember locations and work-like procedures.
    • understand and remember very short and simple instructions.
    • carry out very short and simple instructions.
    • maintain concentration and attention for extended periods (the approximately 2-hour segments between arrival and first break, lunch, second break and departure).
    • perform activities within a schedule.
    • maintain regular attendance.
    • be punctual within customary tolerances.
    • sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision.
    • work in coordination with or proximity to others without being unduly distracted by them.
    • complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms.
    • perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods.
  • Use of judgment:
    • make simple work-related decisions.
    • be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions.
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations:
    • ask simple questions or request assistance.
    • accept instructions.
    • respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors.
    • get along with coworkers or peers without unduly distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes.
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting:
    • respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting.


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