Mental Illnesses and Social Security Disability

Although not many people realize that you can collect social security disability for both physical and mental issues, the truth is that it is incredibly difficult to receive social security disability based on a mental illnesses alone. To help make the process a little bit simpler, here is a guide that covers a lot of the basics on collecting disability benefits on the grounds of mental illness. Of course, contacting an experienced disability lawyer is the best way to ensure that your case goes smoothly and has the best chance for a positive outcome.

Claims Difficulty

It’s worth noting that even a physical disability claim can take a long time to claim and has many bureaucratic obstacles associated with it. It should come as no surprise then that claiming a mental illness can make the process even more difficult. As with any other claims process, claiming a mental issue puts the burden of proof on you. Any symptoms associated with your illness must be presentable and properly assessed.

Unfortunately, many illnesses have nebulous symptoms that do not always manifest in the way you need them to for a claim to work in your favor. This issue is complicated further by the fact that many symptoms can’t be objectively measured by an impartial observer. Without this objectivity, several different claims officials may make radically different decisions regarding a claim based on their own personal beliefs.

Interestingly, many doctors don’t even send in their notes from an assessment to the social security department, because the notes themselves are rarely sufficient to make a decision. Instead, the doctor will first interpret the notes and create a synopsis that injects their own personal opinion on the case. It’s easy to see how this can create complications and prevent a mental impairment claim from being truly fair and unbiased.

Another issue that might come up in a case is an insufficient record for medical treatment. If someone has been prescribed medication for a mental problem through a family doctor, but has no record of seeing a psychiatrist, then their claim could potentially be denied on this basis alone. Even if the SSA does accept a claimant’s medication prescription as proof enough of their illness, another major hurdle is in determining a claimant compliance with the medication’s prescription. If a claimant isn’t taking their medication when they’re supposed to, then the SSA can refuse to provide benefits. Of course, if the reason you can’t take your medication is because you can’t afford it, then this information should be presented to the SSA immediately so that they can properly factor it into their decision.

The last issue that makes a mental examination so difficult has to do with time. An illness must have lasted for at least a year, or be expected to last for that period of time, for an SSA judge to rule in favor of a claimant. Unfortunately, some mental claims don’t really affect a person in a consistent and routine manner, instead flaring up over the course of a year in extremes. Luckily, an experienced disability lawyer can help you prove that you have “episodes of compensation” in this case, which simply means that your mental condition deteriorates at least three times a year. In proving this, the SSA is much more lenient in providing disability benefits to a claimant.

Valid Mental Illnesses

The Social Security Administration provides support to people with a number of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, mental retardation, bipolar disorders, and autistic disorders. There are other issues that are also covered by the Social Security Administration, but these are some of the most common. For more information, be sure to read the SSA’s guidelines thoroughly, or speak to a knowledgeable lawyer that is already aware of them.

If you look through the blue book and find that your condition isn’t listed, don’t panic. As with having a disability that is not as severe as the listed condition requires, the best thing that you can do is fill out the paperwork the same as you would if your condition matched the one listed anyway. As long as your condition is expected to last for at least another year, then there is a chance that you might still qualify for benefits. The biggest determining factor in this situations is what is referred to as your RFC.

Girl with mental problems

What is RFC?

RFC stands for residual functioning capacity, and it refers to how much control you have over your intellectual, social, and functional capabilities. If your mental disorder severely limits any of these areas, then you might still qualify for some kind of allowance from the Social Security Administration.

Based on a person’s RFC, the Social Security Administration has an outline for what type of work they are still qualified to partake in. When the Social Security Administration finds that there is no type of work that you are traditionally qualified for, then you might be entitled to what is known as “medical-vocational allowance,” as opposed to regular disability benefits.

When evaluating a person’s RFC, they are judged on a scale ranging from “not significantly limited” to “moderately limited” to “markedly limited.” Of course, there it’s also worth mentioning that there is an option for “not enough evidence” as well. In order for you to qualify for benefits or a medical-vocational allowance, you will need the SSA to find you markedly limited in at least one or more areas. Otherwise, there is a severely reduced chance that you will be awarded any benefits. Instead, there is a good chance that the SSA will help you find a menial job where there is a reduced need for high-functioning capabilities in any of the intellectual or social areas.

As a part of the evaluation, the Social Security Administration will judge your abilities in a number of key areas, including the following: understanding and memory, social interaction, sustained concentration and persistence, adaptive ability, and intellectual functioning.

For evaluating understanding and memory, the Social Security Administration will review your ability to understand and perform activities based on a series of instructions. Depending on the severity of your condition, you might be found incapable of performing semiskilled work, but still capable of performing unskilled work.

With social interactions, the SSA looks at your ability to properly interact with other people over a long period of time. If you are proven incapable of communicating with others in a simple and straightforward manner, without distracting behaviors, then you might be found incapable of performing unskilled work. In addition, you must show that you are incapable of maintaining a certain level of personal hygiene.

Similar to understanding and memory, concentration and persistence simply tests a person’s ability to pay attention and see a work task through to its completion. If your condition leaves you easily distracted and incapable of performing your duty, then the SSA will find you incapable of unskilled work. Adaptive capabilities also apply to your ability to handle simple tasks, as it tests your resolve and ability to withstand the stress of an average job.

Seeking Help

Since the SSA uses a combination of both medical and non-medical evaluations to determine a claimant’s viability, there is plenty of room for human error. Thankfully, experienced disability lawyers are more than capable of addressing errors and having them fixed in their client’s favor. If you believe that your condition allows you to qualify for disability benefits, then don’t hesitate to begin filing the appropriate paperwork and reaching out to a lawyer that can you help through each phase of the evaluation. Your mental condition shouldn’t hold you back from being treated properly and getting access to the funds you need to survive.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law