Why are we so afraid of forms?

There are so many different kinds of anxiety out there. There’s anxiety about public health, about politics, about how well our employers are weathering the current economy. I’d like to discuss a different kind of anxiety, though, one that I hope I can cure with a few simple key-strokes: form anxiety. I just made that up, so I’m going to capitalize it and give it a nickname: Form Anxiety, or FA.

Form Anxiety begins, for many of us, with standardized tests. My name doesn’t fit in the allotted number of boxes! Did I enter the right testing-center code? Did I somehow get off with my answers, so everything is one number too high? FA then matures on us: I’m filling out a W-4; how many exemptions do I get? Then its my tax form: if I make a mistake, IRS is coming for me. Maybe it’s a financial aid application, or options for benefits at work, or opting for retirement benefits.

In my world, the forms seem to be even higher stakes: it’s a VA benefits application, or Medicaid, or getting the correct Medicare supplement policy. I get questions all the time about how to fill out these various forms, and there is almost always dread and fear behind the questions. It’s the FA. Here’s what I’m here to tell you: when you work with me, you basically cannot make a mistake on a required form. I tell my clients that a form is just an interpretation of a regulation, which itself is an interpretation of a statute, which is often far more complicated than even a complex form can capture. This means that we should not be afraid to just answer something, whatever results from our best efforts. I help eliminate FA. Before any form is submitted by my clients, I review every answer, and I ensure that there is evidence for every single answer. This means that, at worst, an agency will disagree with us, but should not be able to say that we did something “wrong.”

My point is this: when I ask my clients to fill out a form, I’m really asking them just to take a stab at it. No need for FA! I complete most financial information with my clients, and I generally only need my clients to provide the information that I cannot, e.g. family information, social security numbers, dates of birth, where people were born, etc. I handle the legal and financial stuff. As I say to my clients: “You tell me what you’re trying to accomplish, and then my job is to figure out how to get us there.”

Give me the FA.

Give me the legal/technical stress. You just worry about you, your family, and the various care needs that have brought us together. I am proud to partner with a diverse array of clients and frequently hear that, after speaking together, my clients “feel so much better.” I’m here for you, for when life happens.

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