Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

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Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

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SSDRC Disability Blog

How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?

All social security disability and SSI cases are approved on the basis of medical records and 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

Related pages:

Proving a Social Security Disability Case Often Means Getting a Statement from Your Doctor
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits?
Proving Functional Limitations and why this is Important on a Disability Case
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Proving the requirements for disability in North Carolina
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
Awarded SSD benefits, can I work while getting disability?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria