Social Security Disability Definitions
Social Security Disability and SSI Overview
The Requirements for Disability
Social Security Disability and SSI Applications
Tips and Advice for Disability Claims
How long does Disability take?
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial
Disability Denials and Filing Appeals
Social Security Mental Disability Benefits
Disability Benefits offered through Social Security
Benefits through SSI disability
Disability Benefits for Children
Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify
Social Security Disability and Working
Winning your Disability Benefits
Social Security Back Pay and the disability award notice
Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney
Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions
What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?
Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence
Filing for Disability Benefits
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
All social security disability and SSI cases are approved on the basis of what medical record documentation has to say about their condition. Medical record documentation can include records from mental health facilities, treating psychiatrists and psychologists, and even a claimant's own family physician in cases where the claimant is not actually treated by a mental health professional but, instead, is given a recurring prescription by their personal doctor.
What do mental treatment records need to say about your condition?
Ideally, they should provide some level of detail regarding a disability claimant's ability to engage in normal daily activities. An inability to engage in normal daily activities, or a reduced ability to persist in them, may be indicative of a claimant's inability to engage in work activity.
In cases involving cognitive impairments (low IQ, memory loss), anxiety related impairments (panic attacks, agoraphobia, anxiety disorder), and affective impairments (such as bipolar disorder and depression), the social security administration, through the disability examiner reviewing the case, will be looking for evidence of characteristics such as a reduced ability to concentrate, learn instructions, follow instructions, and retain instructions. The disability examiner reviewing the case will note evidence of social impairment such as the claimant's ability or inability to get along with both managers and co-workers.
Something, however, that both the disability examiner and the examiner's unit psychological consultant (disability examiners work in processing units to which both a unit medical consultant, and M.D. and a unit psychological consultant, a Ph.D.-level psychologist are attached) will be particularly attentive to will be evidence of episodes of decompensation.
Decompensation is typically defined as the deterioration of something that was previously functioning at an adequate level. For social security disability and SSI purposes, decompensation, which may be the result of prolonged stress, fatigue, or psychiatric illness, stands as strong evidence of one's inability to consistently engage in work activity. After all, employees who repeatedly suffer from episodes of decompensation will find it difficult to perform their job functions to the levels at which an employer will expect, and extended and repetitive decompensatory episodes may result in termination of employment. In fact, it is for this reason that many mental conditions that are actually listed in the social security disability list of impairments will refer to episodes of decompensation that are repeated over time and which are of extended duration.
What if you have a mental condition that does not result in extended episodes of decompensation?
In such cases, can you still be approved for disability benefits? Yes, many applicants are approved because the totality of their medical evidence indicates that they lack the ability to maintain attention and concentration while on the job, or have memory deficits that significantly impair the ability to remember tasks and receive new training. And, in most cases, claimants who file claims for disability will list multiple conditions versus just one condition.
In other words, the social security administration will consider all the limitations that result from all the various impairments that a claimant has. For example, a claimant may have back problems, depression, and carpal tunnel syndrome, and may possess age and vocational factors that make it improbable for them to engage in substantial gainful work activity. And, in fact, this is the reason why many applicants are sent to multiple consultative medical exams (examinations that social security both schedules and pays for) that are both physical and mental in nature.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions
Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews