Is getting Social Security Disability easier for mental or physical problems?
Some individuals assume that a claim for SSD or SSI disability benefits will be easier to process and get approved if it is based on a specific condition, or a condition that is either physical or mental in nature.
However, speaking as a former disability examiner for social security, this is simply not the case. While there are some conditions that may potentially receive faster processing because they are identified as compassionate allowance conditions (often these conditions are specific forms of cancer) and while some cases may be processed faster because they have been identified as a TERI case (terminal illness), the strength of most claims has little to do with the specific illness or impairment that has been alleged.
Why is the case and why would it be true that a mental disability claim is no stronger than a physical disability claim, or vice-versa? Because the Social Security Disability program and the SSI disability program are not concerned with which condition a claimant has, but, instead, with how severe their condition is.
Of course, the word "severe" is somewhat subjective. However, the social security administration does delineate what is not a severe impairment. Impairments that are not severe are those that result in only a minimal inability to engage in basic work activities. For children, non-severe impairments are those that only result in a minimal inability to engage in age-appropriate activities.
To answer the question with which we started, it is no easier or harder to receive disability for a physical condition versus a mental condition. The social security administration will award benefits to those adult claimants who can prove that their condition (which may result from several different impairments, and, in fact, this is often the case) is severe enough to prevent work activity at the substantial gainful activity level, and those child claimants who can prove that their condition is severe enough to sufficiently inhibit age-appropriate activities (often demonstrated by grade performance and achievement and IQ testing scores).
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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