One in five adults has a mental illness in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be paid to people who are unable to work due to a mental disability. Winning disability benefits is always a challenge, and no less if the applicant’s condition is mental in nature.
That’s why having a skilled Social Security Disability benefits lawyer is critical to filing your claim. Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC represents clients in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and across the country. Contact us today to get started.
Seeking Disability Benefits for Mental Health Issues
Many Americans suffer from depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mental health problems. Medication, therapy, and other treatments can often help. But there are some individuals who find it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain gainful employment with their condition. If a mental health issue is interfering with one’s ability to earn a living, Social Security may pay disability benefits.
Social Security Disability benefits can cover living expenses, medical bills, and other daily financial needs. These monthly benefits can reduce financial worries and make it possible for a claimant to survive. The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays disability benefits through two different programs.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to disabled adults who have paid Social Security taxes.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program that is only available to applicants with limited income and assets.
How to Qualify for SSD Benefits
The SSA, in reviewing a claim for benefits, must determine whether an applicant meets basic eligibility requirements. These require:
- A formal medical diagnosis of a disabling condition.
- A diagnosed condition that will disable an applicant for at least 12 months.
An experienced SSD benefits lawyer can explain more about these basic eligibility requirements.
After the SSA confirms that an applicant has met these criteria, it will then review the medical condition in detail. The SSA conducts a detailed examination of the applicant’s medical records to determine his or her eligibility for benefits.
During this process, the SSA will review the medical records against what is known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book is the SSA’s medical guide which is used to evaluate every application for SSD benefits.
The disability listings contained in the Blue Book describe the severity requirements necessary to meet the claimed condition. It also outlines the specific medical evidence that will support a benefits application.
Mental illnesses appear in Section 12.00 of the Blue Book and include:
- Anxiety-related Disorders. Applicants may qualify if they have a severe phobia, post-traumatic stress, a panic disorder, or another anxiety-related condition.
- Personality Disorders. For applicants with extreme interpersonal relationship problems, impulsive and aggressive behavioral outbursts, and related issues.
- Affective Disorders. This category includes bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, and related conditions.
An applicant must have extensive medical records to document his or her mental health issue. These may include:
- Psychiatric or psychological documentation of the claimant’s diagnosis
- Brain scans and other evidence of physical abnormalities
- Treatment records that document therapy, prescribed medications, and other management methods
- Any evidence related to symptoms, including proof of their increasing severity
- Documentation of how the mental health symptoms affect the applicant’s daily living activities
In other words, it’s not enough just to have a mental health condition. The applicant must demonstrate how the problem impacts his or her daily life. What tasks, such as working and dressing oneself, does the condition interfere with? How difficult is it for the individual to function like an average member of society?
Also, for most mental illnesses, the claimant has to show that attempts have been made to improve the condition. For instance, if medication is prescribed, the applicant must actually be taking it. If therapy is recommended, the applicant must attend sessions. And it has to be shown that despite these efforts, there has not been any improvement in the condition.
Making Your Best Case for Social Security Disability Benefits
Mental health issues are difficult to prove to the SSA’s satisfaction. But the SSA will deny claims for even the most demonstrable and well-documented conditions. You need dedicated legal counsel to make the strongest case for disability benefits.