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One of the topics that is almost always covered in a Social Security disability hearing is the claimant's activities of daily living, or ADLs. Typically, you will describe what you do from morning until night on an average day. ALJs listen to this testimony with an ear for inconsistencies. So for example if you are reading novels at home, then you can't really say that you are unable to concentrate at work.

I have never really understood this fascination with ADLs. The theory is that the ALJ can discern from the ADLs whether or not the claimant can work. But to me, there is often very little connection between the two. Just because you can walk the dog and do household chores at your own pace doesn't mean that you can work full time. Remember, Social Security Ruling 96-8p requires the SSA to consider the claimant's ability to work on a regular and continuing basis, which means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule.

But many judges love to hear about ADLs (in fact, check out this blog post by an ALJ discussing ADLs). And if you get an unfavorable decision, I guarantee that there will be a paragraph in the decision describing all the things you do during the day, and concluding that those activities tend to demonstrate that you retain the capacity for work.

To avoid unfavorable inferences from the judge, it is very important to establish the limits of ADLs at the hearing. If you are cooking meals, doing dishes and cleaning the house, be sure to explain the limits on these activities. Often my clients can only do these things for a few minutes at a time, followed by rest. Or if they do too much one day, they are in pain for the next two days. You must clearly state the limits of these activities, or the judge may get the idea that you are more functional than you are.

A disability lawyer should explore the limits of the client's ADLs thoroughly in advance of the hearing, and make sure to convey those limits to the judge at the hearing.

By establishing the limits of your ADLs, you can short circuit the inference that, because you do ABC at home, you can do XYZ on a full-time basis at work.