Mental disorders have traditionally been some of the hardest illnesses to document and get appropriate care for, which can make getting approved for disability benefits challenging. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is very clear about what evidence it needs for each condition, including both medical documentation and evidence of impairment.
Listed Mental Disorders
There are nine different categories of listed mental disorders:
- Organic mental disorders—psychological disorders caused by dysfunction of the brain
- Schizophrenic, paranoid, and other psychotic disorders
- Mood disorders
- Intellectual disability
- Anxiety-related disorders
- Somatoform disorders
- Personality disorders
- Substance addition disorders
- Autistic disorder and similar developmental disorders
In every case, the SSA requires specific diagnostic evidence to qualify you for disability under a mental disorder. But equally important is the description of how your disorder affects your ability to function.
Your RFC Form: More Important Than Ever
In “Critical Tips on Getting Social Security” we talked about the importance of the RFC, the residual functional capacity form, in which your doctor is able to describe your ability to continue to perform work-related activities. It is crucial to determining your ability to do substantial gainful activity (SGA), which is ultimately the definition of disability for the SSA.
You must have the medical diagnosis to qualify for disability, but without an appropriate RFC, you are unlikely to get approved for disability benefits for a mental disorder.
Describing Disability Severity
In order to qualify you for disability, your mental disorder must cause marked impairment. Impairment may affect some or all of the following categories:
- Activities of daily living like cleaning, shopping, cooking, caring for yourself, and maintaining a household
- Social functioning independently, appropriately, and effectively with others on a sustained basis.
- Concentration, persistence, or pace, such as the ability to focus on work activities over the course of a day, or perform work at the expected rate.
- Episodes of decompensation are when your normal level of functioning drops temporarily but severely, causing you to skip work, stop performing daily activities, or stop being able to function socially
Make sure you consider all these categories when describing your mental disorder. The SSA actually gives significant weight to your testimony about your impairment, so it’s important to give clear, truthful, and appropriate descriptions of all the dimensions of your impairment.
If you have a mental disorder you think might qualify you for disability benefits, please contact us today for a free eligibility evaluation.
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