Can You Get Approved For SSI or SSD Benefits IF You Have A Mental Condition But Do Not Take Medication?

Can you be approved for SSI or SSD disability benefits if you do not take medication or are not compliant with the medication you have been prescribed? While Social Security does not specifically state that you have to be compliant with your medication in order to be approved for SSI or approved for SSD (except in the case of attention deficit disorder), it is my opinion as a former disability examiner that non-compliance with prescribed medication does not help your chances of being approved for SSI or SSD disability.

There is no denying that most people with mental conditions have some improvement in their functional capabilities while following their prescribed treatment. Having said this, though, how medication non-compliance might affect the overall chances of being approved for SSI or SSD varies from disability agency to disability agency, and even from unit to unit within those agencies (each state has at least one DDS agency that processes disability claims for the social security administration: DDS stands for disability determination services).

If you do not take any medication, or are not prescribed medication for your mental condition, it may or may not affect upon your chances of being approved for disability. Some mental conditions cannot be treated with medication.

For example, if your mental condition is organic brain disorder, or mental retardation there are no medications available for treatment. If you have one of these conditions you may vary well be approved for disability benefits even if you are not taking medication.

However, if you are not taking medication and your disabling impairment is depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, etc., your condition may be considered less debilitating or even non-severe.

Mental Impairments that are considered a disability

What mental conditions does the Social Security Administration (SSA) consider disabling? You can get approved for SSI or SSD if you have any one of a variety of mental conditions.

For example, you can be approved for SSI or SSD if you have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, learning disabilities, mental retardation, panic attacks, somatoform disorder, organic brain disorders, attention deficit disorder, personality disorder, or any other combination of mental conditions.

The Social Security Disability guidebook (a.k.a. the blue book) contains mental impairment listings. These listings provide the medical disability criteria needed to satisfy the SSA severity requirements for receiving disability benefits.

Claimants can be approved for disability benefits by meeting or equaling the requirements of a listing in the blue book, or by successfully passing through the sequential evaluation process, a five step process which seeks to determine whether or not a claimant has a severe impairment that will last at least one full year and which will prevent the performance of substantial and gainful work activity.

What medical evidence is required if you have a mental condition?

Like all disabling conditions, whether they are physical or mental, Social Security requires some type of objective medical evidence to support your allegation of a disabling mental condition. If you are applying for SSI on the basis of a mental condition, it is beneficial to your disability claim if you have a history of continuous treatment for your mental condition from a qualified mental health professional (i.e. a psychiatrist or psychologist).

Generally, Social Security prefers medical information from a treating physician (i.e. counseling notes that contain a diagnosis, prognosis, and response to treatment or any kind of objective mental testing) to make their medical decisions. If you do not have any mental health treatment notes, it is likely that you will have attend a CE, or consultative examination, with a mental health professional who will be paid by the Social Security Administration to:

A) give a status of your mental condition and/or

B) perform objective testing such as intelligence quotient (IQ) testing or memory testing.

Since they are paid for and obtained by Social Security to provide the minimal amount of medical evidence needed for disability examiners to make their disability decision, the consultative examinations rarely result in an approval for SSI or SSD disability benefits. It is simply difficult to ascertain the true limitations of an individual in a one-time, often quick, examination, performed by a doctor who has never previously met the patient and who may have no knowledge of the patient's past medical history.

Having a documented medical history, of course, can also serve to provide a record of prescribed medications and the patient's response to such treatment.

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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