Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

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

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

Social Security Disability and Getting a Different Diagnosis on a Mental Condition

Someone wrote in and stated that she had received different labeling of her condition (different diagnoses) after being seen by a number of different psychologists and, perhaps, M.D.s as well. Her questions were A) why does this occur and B) do disability examiners notice this in the medical records they read and, if so, how does it affect their evaluation of a case.


1. What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?.
2. How to prove and win disability with a mental condition.

As to why it happens, I think that's really part and parcel of the mental diagnostic process and the fact that mental conditions are subjective, both for the individuals who suffer with their conditions and for those who must attempt to properly categorize their condition for the purpose of delivering proper and effective treatment.

In my own experiences in assisting others in mental health settings (this would not be in the capacity of an examiner), I've found that it is fairly common to received different--and sometimes even dissimilar diagnoses--from different psychiatrists and psychologists. For example, patient A could receive treatment from Doctor A and then, for whatever reason, switch to Doctor B. Doctor B, after performing his or her own evaluation of the patient may determine the prior diagnosis was incorrect, or perhaps that the patient's condition has changed in some way that affects the current diagnosis. Sometimes, this means dropping the old diagnosis in favor of a different one, or adding a new diagnosis to the current list of diagnosed conditions.

This is fairly routine and normal, based on my experience as an examiner, but also from my own personal observations taken within the mental health system.

However, it does lend some insight as to why mental health disability claims sometimes have an uphill battle.

As I've said many times, the process of making a decision on a disability claim is highly subjective. If that wasn't true, then certainly would not have so many individuals being denied at the first appeal level (request for reconsideration), with such a high percentage of those denials effectively being overturned by federal judges at social security disability hearings.

Also, there is the fact that (and I base this on my own direct experience as an examiner) a case could be taken to several different processing units at a disability determination services agency (where disability claims get worked on for the social security administration) and you could literally get back more than one type of decision. Meaning the system is subjective and not so objective as many would pretend is the case. And it becomes more subjective with mental claims, particularly when you consider the fact that, so often, treating mental health professionals cannot even agree on a diagnosis.

As to the second question: how do disability examiners deal with this phenomenon? Actually, quite easily. Because, as I've said many times on this blog and on, it is not the diagnosis, not the name of the condition that everything rests on. All social security disability and SSI cases are decided according to the functional limitations that are demonstrated by the claimant's medical records. And cases are approved if those records indicate the claimant cannot return to their past relevant work or perform some type of other work while earning a substantial and gainful income. To a large degree in most cases, the name of the condition itself is barely relevant.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

Who is eligible for SSI, how do I apply?
How to File for SSI
Permanent disability benefits
Disability requirements, eligibility, criteria
Disability requirements and how to file in Illinois
Applying for disability, medical conditions
How do you Apply for SSI?
What medical conditions get you approved for disability?
Social Security Disability qualifications
How to claim disability benefits
What medical conditions do they Award Disability Benefits for?

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 provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

What Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
Disability for a mental condition
Tips for Filing for disability
Financial Help Filing For Disability
Checklist for filing for disability, SSI or SSD
Qualifying for disability benefits, how to qualify for SSD or SSI
Filing a disability application: the steps
Disability award notice, how long it takes to get benefits
How to Apply for Disability - Where do I go?
What makes you eligible to get disability?
How to check my disability claim status?
Can a disability attorney speed up a disability case?
SSI disability Award Letter
How long to get approved for disability?
How to apply for disability benefits
How long does disability back pay take?
What are qualifications for getting disability?
What medical conditions can you file disability for?
Disability Lawyer help questions
Social Security Attorneys, Disability Representatives