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Sample Questions: Disability Benefits and Physical Symptoms

Sample Questions: Disability Benefits and Physical Symptoms

If the main issue in your disability hearing is the extent of your physical impairment, then your description of your symptoms is the most important part of your testimony. If you can give a credible, vivid description of your symptoms, then you will have taken a giant step toward winning your case.

The following types of questions cover different aspects of physical symptoms of disability.

General Physical Symptoms


Description of the pain:

  • What is nature of your pain?
  • What is the location of your pain?
  • What happened to cause you to have this pain?
  • How long have you had the pain?
  • Has there been any significant period since it started that the pain was in remission?
  • If so, what caused the period of remission (e.g., medication, surgery, physical therapy)? How long did the remission last?
  • What does the pain feel like?
  • Is it tender to touch?
  • Does it limit the amount you can bend the affected joint? How much?
  • Is the quality of the pain always the same or is it sometimes different? If so, how and when is it different?
  • Show us where this pain is located. (Your attorney might then say something like “Let the record reflect that the claimant is pointing to his low back at the beltline.”)
  • Is this pain constant or does it come and go?
  • If it comes and goes:
    • How often does it come?
    • How long does it last?
    • How many hours per day/days per month do you have this pain?
    • What sorts of things bring on this pain?
    • What relieves it?
  • Do you have muscle spasms?
  • How severe is your pain? If we use a ten-point scale with ten being the most severe pain you’ve ever had, how would you rank the pain you’vte been telling us about?
  • Is it always of the same intensity? If not, how often is it at each intensity?
  • What increases the intensity of your pain? Is it affected by movement, activity, staying in one position, environmental conditions or stress?
  • Does the pain ever radiate, such as going down one of your legs? If so:
    • Which leg?
    • What route does it travel? Be specific.
    • What does it feel like when it goes down your leg?
    • How often does this happen?
  • Is there any numbness or pins-and-needles feeling associated with this pain?
  • Are there any other symptoms associated with this pain, such as redness, swelling, heat, stiffness, crepitus (crackling noise heard when joint moves), muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, fatigue, appetite loss, weight loss?

Treatment for the pain:

  • How often do you see your doctor?
  • What does your doctor do for you?
  • How is the pain affected by medication?
  • Do you have side effects from pain medication such as drowsiness, dizziness, lack of concentration, slow reflexes, nausea?
  • What treatment other than medication have you tried, such as transcutaneous nerve stimulator (TENS unit), physical therapy, massage, “back school” (training in back exercises and mechanics), bio-feedback, hypnosis, psychological therapy, chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, Hubbard tank, traction, exercises, injections, pain clinic? How much have these things helped?
  • What home remedies have you tried, such as hot baths, heating pads, ointments? How much have these things helped?
  • Is the pain helped by limiting your activities, lying down, shifting positions frequently, sitting in a special chair, etc.?

Resulting restrictions:

  • How has this pain affected your life?
  • Do you use assistive devices? (For example, cane, brace, cervical collar, special door handles, gripping devices, bathtub or shower bars, special chair.)
  • Are your daily activities affected (including relationship with others, sleep, hobbies, etc.)?
  • Are you irritable, depressed, worried, anxious, have difficulty concentrating, or remembering?
  • How has the pain affected your capacity for work? See mental and physical residual functional capacity.

Shortness of breath:

  • What brings on shortness of breath?
    • Cardiac chest pain?
    • Lung congestion?
    • Asthma?
    • Weather changes?
    • Allergies?
    • Speaking?
    • Exertion?
    • Lying down?
    • Hyperventilation?
    • Stress?
    • Panic attacks?
  • Describe how it feels when you are short of breath.
  • How many pillows do you use when you sleep?
  • How many stairs can you climb before you become short of breath and have to stop?
  • How fast do you walk?
  • How far can you walk before you become short of breath and have to stop?
  • Are you bothered by dust, fumes, gases? If so, to what degree do you need to be in a clean environment?
  • How often do you wheeze?
  • How often do you have lung infections?
  • How often do you have acute episodes of breathing problems?
    • What brings on these acute episodes?
    • How long does each episode last?
    • What are your symptoms during acute episodes?
  • How often would you miss work because of your breathing problems?
  • If you were at work, would you need to take unscheduled breaks? If so, do you expect that this would occur daily, weekly, several times per month? Would you need to sit down or recline?


  • When did you begin feeling fatigued?
  • Did fatigue come on gradually or all at once?
  • Describe your fatigue.
  • Is it the same as being weak? physically tired? lacking energy?
  • Is it the same as being drowsy or sleepy?
  • When you are fatigued, how would you describe your level of motivation to do anything?
  • Is your fatigue associated with a lack of patience?
  • What things make your fatigue worse?
    • Physical activity?
    • Stress?
    • Heat?
    • Depression?
  • Give specific examples of things that worsen your fatigue.
    • How much physical activity will bring on fatigue?
    • Give examples of stressful things that you think made your fatigue worse in the past.
    • How much heat brings on the fatigue?
    • Will a hot bath make you fatigued?
  • Is fatigue affected by the time of day? What time of day is worse? What time of day is better?
  • What things make your fatigue better?
    • Rest?
    • Sleep?
    • Positive experiences?
  • How well do you sleep?
  • How long do you need to rest for your fatigue to get better so that you can get up and do something?


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