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Social Security Disability for Mental Impairment

Social Security Disability for Mental Impairment

There are many minor mental conditions that may not interfere with one’s ability to earn a living, particularly now that there are so many medications available to treat mild anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders and other mental health problems. Nonetheless, severe psychiatric or developmental conditions often not only prevent patients from working, but interfere with normal everyday functioning. For those with such disabling conditions, Social Security Disability (SSD) is available. Because of the complexities of applying for SSD when you suffer from a mental impairment, you should make sure to engage the services of a highly skilled Social Security Disability attorney to increase your chances of receiving the benefits you deserve.

How do you qualify for SSD for mental disorders?

Qualifying for SSD is never a simple process; there are many steps involved. You must fill out an ADL (“activities of daily living”) form, submit any relative medical records and treatment notes from doctors, counselors, clinics, and hospitals, submit any relevant testing information, and sign an Authorization to Disclose Information form so Social Security have permission to contact your treatment providers. You may also be asked to have your doctor fill out a Mental Residual Functional Capacity assessment form.

Social Security is only entitled to see treatment notes pertaining to your ability to function in the outside world and/or in a place of employment. Other personal materials can be redacted to protect your privacy. In addition to having a Social Security employee examine you, Social Security workers may, if they consider it necessary, ask your former employers, teachers, friends and family questions about your functioning.

Which mental healthcare conditions are considered for SSD?

A large number of mental disorders may be considered disabling enough to warrant SSD benefits. At the same time, it is a big mistake to assume that just because you have been diagnosed with one of the listed conditions you will be granted the benefits you’re applying for. Mental healthcare conditions that may be categorized as warranting SSD benefits are:

  • ADHD and learning disabilities
  • Anxiety-related disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Intellectual developmental disorders (low IQ)
  • Paranoia
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

It should be noted that alcohol and/or drug abuse are not considered legitimate reasons for an individual to receive SSD. Also, the Social Security Administration will not grant disability benefits to those whose other disabilities have been caused or worsened by addiction or abuse.

Why is it more difficult to qualify for SSD based on mental disorders than on physical ones?

While SSD is available for individuals with mental, as well as physical, impairments, it is somewhat more difficult to qualify for benefits if your problems are psychiatric. This is because the examiners are not licensed mental healthcare clinicians and may not be able to distinguish “real” symptoms, even those substantiated by medical records, from fake ones. Furthermore, they do not have the training to understand the cyclical nature of many kinds of psychiatric disease. If they meet with a patient who is behaving “normally,” they may not be able to believe that the individual is subject to severe outbursts of irrational, uncontrollable behavior.

If you suffer from a developmental disorder, memory impairment, or an organic brain disease, the examiners are more likely to accept the diagnosis because IQ and memory can be objectively tested.

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