How to Obtain Social Security Disability Benefits for Mental Illness

January 17,2019
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Getting Social Security disability for mental illness is often much difficult than for a physical illness. There are many reasons for that, which this post will get into. But it is possible to have your Social Security disability application for a mental disorder approved. That is why having a lawyer on your side at the start of the process is a good idea.

The experienced disability attorneys at Hermann Law Group, PLLC have successfully helped disabled workers apply for and receive Social Security disability benefits for mental illness. Contact us today for a free consultation.

How the SSA Reviews Claims for Disability Due to Mental Illness

What Is the Blue Book?

Social Security disability claims examiners will review your claim for benefits due to mental illness using a set of disability listings for mental disorders. This official listing of impairments, referred to as the Blue Book, contain medical conditions that the government categorizes as “inherently disabling.”

These include:

  • Depression and mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder;
  • Anxiety-related disorders, such as PTSD;
  • Developmental and learning disabilities, such as autism and ADHD;
  • Brain disorders, such as traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis;
  • Substance abuse disorders; and
  • Personality disorders.

These conditions are considered disabling. They prevent those afflicted from performing even simple, unskilled work.

Do You Meet the Listings Requirements?

Disability claims examiners will determine whether you meet the requirements of the disability listings by reviewing three items:

  1. Clinical notes of mental health professionals;
  2. Third-party questionnaires from your friends who report on your condition and normal daily routine; and
  3. An “Activities of Daily Living” questionnaire that you complete.

Unfortunately, Social Security disability claims examiners are not licensed psychiatrists. They don’t have to train to understand fully the disabling effect of all mental disorders. They also may not be aware that it isn’t easy to evaluate symptoms of mental conditions. Unlike physical disabilities, mental disorders have very few tests for measuring their severity.

So, if your disorder is not included in the official listing or easily understood, your claim will likely be denied. It is no surprise then that disability claims for cognitive, psychological, and psychiatric problems more often receive approval on appeal.

Why Claims for Disability Due to Mental Illness Get Denied

Even if examiners were competent to review claims based on mental illnesses, other issues could cause your claim to be denied. Below are four things that could hurt your Social Security disability claim:

  1. Lack of Treatment Notes. If your mental health specialist kept poor treatment notes or simply submits a synopsis of their notes to the disability claims examiner or judge, they will not be very helpful to your case.
  2. Lack of Mental Health Treatment. A doctor’s prescription for medication to treat a mental condition is not enough to support a claim. You will need substantial medical treatment records on hand to back your claim.
  3. Not Taking Prescribed Medication. The claims examiner will look at what you are able to do despite the limitations of your mental condition. Your limitations can’t be measured if you’ve been diagnosed and prescribed medication, but are not taking it. The examiner may make an exception, however, if you haven’t taken the medication because you can’t afford it.
  4. Having a Recurring Illness. The disability examiner could deny your claim because your condition hasn’t lasted or isn’t expected to last a year. If you suffer from a mental illness with symptoms that fluctuate, such as bipolar disorder, this will be an issue.

How Claims for Disability Due to Mental Illness Can Get Approved

To improve your chances of getting the SSA to approve your application, you should see your psychiatrist or psychologist regularly. Inform them how your condition affects you on a daily basis and take the medicine that they prescribe.

Even if the official disability listings does not include your mental illness, you could still be able to obtain disability benefits. More than likely, you will win on appeal. And only if you can prove you can’t perform even the simplest, unskilled job due to your disorder.

Depending on the severity of your illness, your age, education, and skills, you could receive a medical-vocational allowance.

Talk to a New York Disability Attorney to Learn More

By working with an experienced disability attorney, you can increase your chances of receiving Social Security disability for mental illness. Hermann Law Group, PLLC will work tirelessly to help you. We will collect data, reach out to doctors, and present a complete picture of your limitations to examiners and judges. Contact us today.