Facts about Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1) When someone worries incessantly over small things to the point of feeling sick and anxious, they can be said to have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Usually the worry is over family issues, work stresses, health, or money, and is so severe that it ends up disturbing their daily lives. GAD happens when someone worries themselves sick.
2) Symptoms of GAD can vary greatly, but usually include headaches, fatigue, irritability, difficulty breathing or swallowing, insomnia, rashes, nausea, and muscle tension or pain.
3) It is estimated that almost 9 million American adults (3.1 percent of the population) suffer from GAD yearly, while 3 percent of the population in Canada, Australia, and Italy also experience GAD yearly. Women are two or three times more likely to develop GAD and the median age of onset is usually around 31 years old.
4) There is a certain criteria that must be met to be diagnosed with GAD, including excessive worry over a few different events during a six-month period, with more days of the six months spent worrying than not. Also, the patient must have issues controlling their worry, and they must have suffered with three or more of six symptoms consistently over a six-month period, including: irritability, fatigue, muscle tension, insomnia or restless sleep, feeling 'on edge', and having trouble concentrating.
5) GAD is thought to be genetic, can be caused by an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin, and it is known to be caused by environmental stress, such as stress due to relationships or work. It can also be brought on by lack of sleep, or a traumatic experience, such as the death of loved one.
6) Those with GAD can take many steps toward reducing their stress. Simple things like exercising, eating well, and going to see a therapist or getting a financial counselor can help immensely.
7) Cognitive behavioral therapy is a very popular treatment for GAD and is estimated to help one-third of American patients; it can be used alone or in tandem with medications.
8) The most popular medications for anxiety disorder are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Zoloft and Prozac, or benzodiazepines, such as Xanan or Valium.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
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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