When possible, questions that supplement or clarify information obtained on the SSA-3373 should be open-ended. Encourage the claimant to take the lead to provide a narrative response. Avoid leading questions such as, “You can't drive much with your bad back, can you?”
Techniques such as prompting or recasting a significant statement of the claimant's into a question are useful in eliciting details from the claimant. For example, if the claimant says, “I am too nervous to drive anymore,” the response might be “You cannot drive your car anymore? Why not?” or “Tell me about it.”
When the claimant has had an adequate opportunity to explain his or her functions and limitations, more structured questioning may be used. However, the opening moments of the contact may reveal situations that may require a different approach. For example, if the claimant seems depressed, under-productive or too anxious to focus on a narrative response, questions may need to be more directive. Similarly, if the claimant exhibits hyperactive behavior, he or she may respond with too much information, and the questions may need to be more restrictive to control the responses.
Remember that the areas of mental functioning (i.e., paragraph B criteria of the mental disorders listings) to be assessed are:
Understand, remember, or apply information,
Concentrate, persist, and maintain pace, and
Physical impairments also affect these areas of functioning. We look at how a claimant's physical and mental impairments restrict his or her ability to function in each of the areas. For example, in the area of interacting with others, the claimant needs to describe how his or her impairment(s) affects the effectiveness, independence, appropriateness, and sustainability of his or her ability to function with others.