Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What does Social Security Disability consider a Mental Impairment?

Social Security considers any mental condition that limits an individual’s ability to perform substantial 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 by the Social Security Administration.

That being said, eligibility for Social Security disability benefits 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.

When filing a Social Security disability claim, 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.

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.

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