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Social Security and Mental Illness

Posted in Social Security Disability. Tuesday, Feb 23rd, 2016

Applying for Social Security can be a challenging, drawn-out process. Many people think they have an idea of how Social Security works and the types of illnesses and disorders allow people to collect Social Security but could overlook certain challenges that come with obtaining this coverage. While some disabilities are readily apparent to most, such as the loss of a limb, even individuals with noticeable disabilities sometimes face difficulties in accessing Social Security Disability Benefits. For other disabilities, such as mental illness, the difficulties can be even greater.

Disabilities and Social Security

In order to make determinations regarding an applicant’s eligibility for social security, the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks for a disability diagnosis by a health professional, as well as reviewing the following, whether the impairment(s) (disabilities) meet or equal a listed impairment. If not, SSA considers the applicant’s past 15 years of work experience and transitional skills acquired, the severity of his/her conditions, the applicant’s age and his/her educational level.

  • The applicant’s past work experience;
  • The severity of his or her condition;
  • The applicant’s age;
  • His or her education level; and
  • The applicant’s work skills.

The SSA staff makes non-medical determinations regarding eligibility while state Disability Determination Services (DDS) are responsible for verifying that the applicant has a qualifying disability. DDS relies on information from the applicant’s medical professionals and, if that information is not sufficient, may arrange for an additional examination from an independent source.

Mental Illness and Social Security

Those who have been diagnosed with specific mental disorders are eligible to apply for Social Security as long as their disorders cause impairments that impact their ability to work and those impairments have lasted or will last at least one year. The mental disorders that make an individual eligible for Social Security include:

  • Organic mental disorders;
  • Schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders;
  • Affective disorders such as depression, manic syndrome, and bi-polar;
  • Intellectual disability;
  • Anxiety-related disorders;
  • Somatoform disorders;
  • Personality disorders such as autism.

The Social Security Administration does not look favorably and makes it difficult to obtain benefits if alcohol and/or substance addiction disorders materially affect the other disorders.

Social Security Eligibility

Diagnosis of mental illness for the purpose of obtaining Social Security coverage must include evidence of medically-determinable impairments of at least one year (or that are expected to exist for at least one year). In addition, the evidence should include symptoms, including those self-reported by the applicant, signs of a mental disorder such as changes in behavior, mood, development, or perception, and laboratory or psychological test findings.

In addition, it is not sufficient to simply have a diagnosis. The mental illness must be severe. Severity is measured through the illness’ impact on activities, including:

  • Activities of daily living;
  • Social functioning;
  • Concentration, persistence, or pace; and
  • Episodes of decompensation.

Assessment of Mental Impairment

In order to assess eligibility for social security based on mental impairment, SSA and DDS, there will be a review of medical evidence, information directly from the applicant, and other information. In addition, evidence covering a length of time may make an application more successful, as will other evidence showing the severity of the impairment (such as work history, etc.). Depending on the stated impairment, additional evidence (such as particular tests, reports, symptoms, signs, medication and treatment) may make the application more likely to succeed.

Work with an Ohio Social Security Attorney

Applying for Social Security based on mental impairment can be a challenge. In addition to fighting to provide sufficient evidence for your claim, you could be fighting against stigma and the belief that a mental illness is not a true disability. If you have questions about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance based on mental impairment and want to learn more about how hiring an attorney can help make the process easier, contact a Columbus Social Security Disability attorney at the Law Office of Mike Gertner today.