Facts about OCD 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) Obsessive compulsive disorder, commonly referred to as OCD, is a mental disorder characterized by irrational and fearful thoughts that lead to compulsions and obsessions aimed at relieving stress and anxiety.
2) The symptoms of OCD can range, depending on the original obsession that is trying to be relieved by compulsive behavior. For instance, if the obsession is one of not turning off the stove, the symptom will be checking the stove repeatedly to make sure it is turned off. If the obsession is one of receiving germs, the compulsion may be washing one's hands repeatedly, even after they have become chapped and sore from over washing.
3) Many times those with OCD realize that their compulsions are obsessive, but it does not help them to stop. In fact, many times this realization may cause more stress and anxiety, resulting in an increase of the behavior.
4) It is estimated that nearly one in every 50 American adults, or 2 percent of the United States population, suffers with OCD. It can show up in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
5) Popular obsessions for those with OCD include: obsessive sexual thoughts, fear of germs and dirt, needing things to be overly orderly and symmetrical in placement, and various aggressive impulses or thoughts. These obsessions lead to the most common compulsions, including: obsessive orderliness, repeated actions, counting, washing, cleaning, and checking things repetitively.
6) Having OCD can affect the sufferer's relationships and quality of life and may lead to depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts.
7) Although there is no certain cause of OCD, many believe it may be caused by low levels of serotonin, certain biology or brain functions, and environmental factors, such as trauma. Research continues to determine the cause. It is thought that it is genetic as well, though no certain genes have been identified.
8) Treatment can vary, though cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common treatments. Medications to treat the include anti-depressants and psychiatric medications.
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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