How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Getting disability for a mental condition - proving your case

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 the claimant's 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 records need to say about your condition to prove your disability case?

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.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

SSI Disability Appeal works better than a new claim
Can you speed up a disability claim?
Is there a cap on back pay for SSI?
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?

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

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.