Social Security and Mental Disorders

Although mental disorders cannot be diagnosed by an x-ray like a broken bone or by blood work like diabetes, the symptoms are very real and often disabling. There are numerous forms of mental disorders including major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, PTSD, and ADHD, just to name a few. The symptoms associated with mental illnesses often make it difficult to work or perform activities of daily living because of problems with:

  • Concentration and memory;
  • Low energy, lack of motivation, inability to get out of bed or leave the house; and
  • Problems being around others such as family members, coworkers, supervisors and even the general public.

The severity of symptoms and limitations vary from person to person. Some people get excellent relief from their symptoms, while others only see very little benefit from psychotropic medications.

Mental disorder sufferers are often entitled to Social Security Disability benefits because they are disabled from working. Social Security Disability benefits provides cash assistance and Medicare insurance coverage to person who are disabled from work due to a severe impairment or combination of impairments. SSI benefits are similar, but have additional income requirements.

The Social Security Administration evaluates mental disorders under 12.00 of the Listing of Impairments. The Social Security Administration makes determinations about whether claimants’ mental disorders meets specific criteria under the sections of 12.00 depending upon individuals’ specific diagnoses. These sections include:

  • 12.02 Organic Mental Disorders;
  • 12.03 Schizophrenic, Paranoid, and Other Psychotic Disorder;
  • 12.04 Affective Disorders;
  • 12.05 Intellectual Disability;
  • 12.06 Anxiety Related Disorders;
  • 12.07 Somatoform Disorders;
  • 12.08 Personality Disorders;
  • 12.09 Substance Addiction Disorders; and
  • 12.10 Autistic Disorder and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

People often suffer from multiple mental disorders, making it even more difficult to control symptoms and to function in a work setting. The Listings can be very difficult for the average person to understand and evaluate.If you have questions about your mental health conditions and the Listings, call McCroskey Law for a free case evaluation today.

Even if the specific criteria for one of the Listings of Impairment for mental disorders is not met, the Social Security Administration may determine that the severity of symptoms associated with the mental illness or illnesses are disabling. When evaluating the severity of symptoms, the Social Security Administration will assess a claimant’s functional limitations in four areas of mental functioning including: activities of daily living (cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc); social functioning (getting along with people, go out in public, etc); concentration, persistence, and pace (staying on task, remembering appointments, completing household chores); and episodes of decompensation (temporary exacerbations of symptoms associated with loss of functioning). The Social Security Administration will determine whether the limitations in functioning are mild, marked, or extreme.

A finding of disability by the Social Security Administration is warranted if a claimant has marked limitations in at least two of the areas of functioning or a finding that a claimant has one marked limitation and repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration. A marked limitation is one that interferes “seriously” with one’s ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively on a sustained basis. 20 CFR Sections 404.1520a and 416.920a.

Since mental disorders cannot be diagnosed by objective testing such as by x-rays or blood work, it is extremely important to show that a claimant is honest and credible in presenting the severity of his symptoms and limitations when trying to establish disability. The Social Security Administration will look carefully at mental health treatment records and statements from treating psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapist when determining whether a claimant is disabled or not. The Social Security Administration will also look at the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of medications in controlling symptoms and improving functioning. The Social Security Administration will also look to see if the claimant’s use or abuse of drugs or alcohol has a material impact on his symptoms and functioning.

Proving a mental disability case before the Social Security Administration is often difficult to do, but it can be done with careful case preparation by an experienced attorney who knows the law and understands mental disorders. If you suffer from a mental disorder and want to learn more about your rights to Social Security Disability benefits, please call one of our experienced attorneys at McCroskey Law. We are local, we are lawyers, and we want to help you get the Social Security Disability benefits you deserve.Our offices are easily accessible in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Battle Creek.It is always free to talk to us, and we do not charge a fee unless we win your case.