Under Social Security law, you can collect disability income for both physical and mental health conditions. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider claims for a wide variety of mental disorders, from generalized anxiety to schizophrenia and substance addition. Here, the disability advocates at Disability Associates provide some helpful tips for persons with a mental health disorder who are applying for Social Security disability benefits.
Ensure that Your Condition is Recognized as Disabling
When a disability claim is filed—for either mental or physical disorders—a disability examiner will first refer to the SSA’s official Listing of Impairments. The Listings contain medical conditions that the SSA recognizes as inherently disabling, which includes 11 unique categories of mental health disorders:
- Neurocognitive disorders
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
- Depressive, bipolar and related disorders
- Intellectual disorders
- Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Somatic symptom and related disorders
- Personality and impulse-control disorders
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
- Eating disorders
- Trauma and stressor-related disorders
It is important to note that each type of mental disorder is evaluated according to a unique set of criteria. You can view full descriptions for each category by visiting section 12 of SSA’s Listing of Impairments, which is dedicated to adult mental disorders.
Remember, mental health disorders are unique in that symptoms may not always be present in the person suffering from the condition, so it may be difficult for a disability examiner to decide on whether an applicant meets the requirements for approval. Consider consulting an experienced disability law attorney to discuss how you can earn the benefits you are entitled to.
Consult Your Physician Regarding a Mental Residual Functional Capacity
If your condition does not meet the Listing’s criteria, but you have been diagnosed with a chronic mental condition that is preventing you from working, you may still be eligible for disability. A claims examiner who works for the SSA will fill out a Mental Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form when you are applying for disability based on a disabling mental condition.
Although the claims examiner will complete an RFC form for your claim, you may wish to ask your treating physician or mental health specialist if they can fill out an RFC form on your behalf as well. A medical professional’s evaluation can be valuable as the SSA processes your claim and may increase your chances of being approved for disability benefits.
Understand the Reasons why Mental Impairment Claims get Denied
Mental health conditions tend to present their own unique set of challenges when it comes to getting approved for disability benefits. Understanding the common reasons why mental health claims are denied will help in managing expectations and can help to ensure that you are prepared.
One main problem is that the applicant’s health care specialist(s) may not keep detailed, accurate notes that outline the history, progression, and treatment of the condition. If there is no official record detailing the diagnosis or prescribed treatment—or if the notes are simply not sufficient enough, or from a professional who does not specialize in mental health—the claimant may not have the substantial records necessary to be approved.
In addition, some Social Security disability claims are denied on the basis of duration, meaning that a disability examiner or disability judge has concluded that the applicant’s condition has not lasted for a year or is not expected to last for a year. This can be especially problematic for a claimant suffering from a condition that tends to have fluctuating symptoms, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Consider Hiring an Attorney Who Will Advocate for Your Needs
There is no denying that a mental health disorder can be just as disabling as a physical one. Mental health disorder presents unique situations for claimants, examiners and physicians alike, and should be handled with the consultation of an experienced attorney.
The disability advocates at Disability Associates are dedicated to ensuring you are given fair consideration from the SSA and will work with you to make sure you are well-equipped for your claims or appeal process. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.