As a society, we are very prone to exaggeration. Are you cold? Yes, I’m freezing. Were there a lot of people at the party? Yeah, like a million.When filing for Social Security disability benefits, you might find yourself to be a bigger culprit of exaggeration than you may think. Some people exaggerate their impairments to sound worse than they are. For example, you might be asked, “How much do you sleep at night?” If you have terrible back pain that keeps you tossing and turning every night, you might blurt out, “I don’t ever sleep.” Well, this simply isn’t true or you would be dead. You must get some sleep in there somewhere, even if it is just a couple hours of dozing off and on. So the best answer would be, “I don’t know because I toss and turn all night. I doze off, but I really don’t feel like I get very much sleep at all.” Some people exaggerate in the other direction, minimizing their impairments. We especially hear these exaggerated positives when you are asked if you could work certain jobs. For example, perhaps you have severe swelling in your ankles and feet and have to elevate you feet throughout the day. Let us also say that you have an additional injury in your right shoulder. But you are a hard worker and hate to think that you cannot work. You are asked if you could do your last job as a teacher, and you say, “Well, yes.” You just gave the impression that you could work as a full-time teacher. A better choice of words might be, “Well, I could teach a little, but I would need a lot of breaks to put my feet up, and I couldn’t write on the chalkboard because of my shoulder.” The lesson here is that if you don’t fill in the details, someone at Social Security will for you, and they will likely do it to your detriment. The other pitfall people fall into is failing to answer the questions at all. Sometimes you feel like you have told your story so many times, it is now on the tip of your tongue, and you find yourself telling about the background of your disability more than answering the direct questions, whether on a form or from a judge or attorney. When you are asked a question, especially at a hearing, take a deep breathe and organize your thoughts before you speak. Make sure that you give a concise answer to the judge. That doesn’t mean you have to answer everything with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, with no elaboration, but do stay on topic and answer the question. For example, if the judge asks you how severe your pain is, do not tell him the entire story about how you got your injury. Just describe the pain, “On a bad day, it feels like fire in my lower back and spreads through my hips. On a good day, it is still achy and sore. I have 2-3 really bad days a week when all I can do is take my medication and stay in bed.” If all of this seems too overwhelming, and you are unsure of how to word things, you are not alone. At Craig Swapp & Associates, we fill out these forms on a regular basis. We can help you complete forms with wording that accurately describes your conditions, but does so in a way that will maximize the validity of your claim. We also thoroughly prepare you for your hearing so you feel comfortable and confident in your answers.