What does Social Security Disability consider a Mental Impairment in Texas?

Social Security considers any mental condition that limits an individual's ability to perform substantial and gainful work activity to be a mental impairment. Consequently, mental conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders and many others are all considered to be mental impairments that are potentially disabling and may lead to an approval for disability benefits by the Social Security Administration.

That being said, eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits in Texas is not about having specific mental impairments, rather Social Security Disability evaluation tends to focus more on how an individual's mental impairment limits their functional capacity including the performance of routine daily activities (which may be a reflection of their ability to engage in work activity).

How does Social Security determine an individual's residual functional capacity when it comes to mental impairments? Once your disability claim has been sent to the state disability agency (all Social Security Disability determinations are sent to state agencies for processing), the disability examiner who has been assigned to your case acquires all of your available mental health treatment notes. The examiner will often also obtain a daily activity questionnaire from you, and often from a third party as well.

If you have no mental health treatment notes or if your mental health treatment notes are more than three months in the past, you may also be required to attend a consultative exam with a Social Security physician or mental health professional to establish a current mental status. Social Security may use the results of this one-time examination to establish the existence of your mental impairment, or even the severity of your mental impairment.

However, it should be noted that very few claims are ever won on the basis of a report obtained from a consultative examination when there are no other records to substantiate the claim. This underscores the importance of receiving treatment which can document A) that a diagnosis exists, B) how long the condition has been disabling, and C) and the prognosis or outlook for the patient who has the condition.

When filing a Social Security Disability claim in Texas, it is important to have an established mental health medical history as well as current mental health treatment notes, since consultative examinations are often hurried and do not give a true picture how an individual's mental condition has limited them in their daily lives.

Current treatment notes will establish that an individual is disabled as of now. Even though older medical records are vital for proving when a disability began, which impacts access to medicare benefits and how much a person may receive in back pay, current records are vital since a case cannot be won without them.

It goes without saying that an individual's with a well documented mental health history have a better chance of being approved for Social Security disability based upon a mental impairment, than those who have to rely on a consultative examination.

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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