When you’re applying for SSI and SSID benefits, you should take advantage of every possible means to strengthen your file. On average, the Social Security Administration denies benefits to 64 percent of all first-time applicants, often because their file is incomplete or they haven’t made a strong enough case. One significant yet often overlooked way to strengthen your application is to maintain and submit a disability journal.

Why Keep a Disability Journal?

A disability journal is a daily diary that tracks how the disability affects your life and the steps you must take to manage it. This information reinforces hospital and medical records Man Writing in His Disability Journaland statements from your health care providers about your disability, and helps bring to life your reality since you suffered the disability. SSA representatives will have a more vivid picture of the extent of your disability and the impact it has on your daily life. The journal may also help you remember important details about your disability that you may need to relate to your medical provider.

What to Record in Your Disability Journal

Start the journal by writing the date of the onset of your disability. Explain the nature of the disability and how it makes it difficult or impossible to work. From there, aim to record details in the journal every day or at least a few times a week. Here are five critical areas to record.

Impact on Daily Activities

Your journal should include precise details of how your life has changed since the disability. For example, you should record:

  • Changes in your ability to prepare your own food. Take care to note whether it takes longer to prepare meals, how long it takes, whether you can no longer prepare certain basic meals that you could previously.
  • Changes in your ability to groom yourself. Do you now need help bathing, dressing, or putting on jewelry or your watch?
  • Changes to your independence. Describe any special arrangements you must make to accommodate your disability. Take note if you can no longer drive, run ordinary errands, or visit with friends without assistance. Write down important events that your disability forced you to miss because of physical limitations, pain, or difficulty in arranging for appropriate accommodations.
  • Changes to your schedule. Your disability may have required you to significantly alter your regular schedule. Record changes to your usual program and habits and any inconveniences the changes have caused.

Mental or Physical Effects

A disability can affect you both physically and mentally. Be sure to record:

  • Physical side effects. Dizziness, instability, nausea, fatigue, limited range of motion or paralysis, change in body functions, numbness, and other side effects.
  • Mental side effects. Depression, disinterest in usual activities, foggy thinking, forgetfulness, grouchiness, and other side effects.  
  • Side effects from medication. Take special note of when medication you take for your disability causes you to experience physical or mental side effects. These may include frequent urination, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, heart palpitations, or any side effects listed above.
  • Circumstances that trigger physical or mental effects. Record all activities, circumstances, or situations that trigger physical or mental effects related to your disability. For example, if your disability becomes more aggravated when under stress, make note of this.

Your Pain Level

Be sure to record your pain levels daily. If you have significant spikes of pain during the day or when performing certain activities, record exactly what occurred and when. Remember to describe where you feel the pain and its intensity. You may want to use a 1-10 pain scale, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest pain level, along with describing the nature of the pain (achiness, throbbing, stabbing, etc.).

Medical Appointments

Record every health appointment related to your disability, or if you need emergency services. You should even record phone calls with health care providers that relate to your disability, including conversations with nurses and pharmacists.

Treatments or Medication

Keep track of all the medicine you’re taking that relates to your disability and record all treatments, such as physical or occupational therapy. Record how you feel before and after medications or treatment to emphasize the necessity of these interventions.

How a Boston SSI Lawyer Can Help

Applying for Social Security disability is a complicated process, but it’s worth it. The extra cash can go a long way in helping you defray medical expenses and cost of living increases due to your disability. Your chances of receiving benefits notably increases if you work with a lawyer throughout the application process. If you would like to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible, please contact us online or call directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston?

If you are looking to apply for Social Security disability, you need to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer
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