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How does the SSA evaluate SSD claims for mental health issues?

Social Security Disability Insurance is meant to provide a “safety net” for individuals who can no longer work due to some ailment they have acquired. These ailments are often of a physical nature in the sense that it is a problem with some portion of the body not functioning as well as it should, and preventing labor from being performed. Sometimes, the part of the body that is not functioning correctly is the brain. While this space has previously touched on the difference between SSD and Supplemental Security Income, in this installment we will take a very brief look at how the Social Security Administration looks at applications for SSD based upon a mental condition.

In the SSA’s bluebook, which is guidance tool for professionals in evaluating SSD claims, section 12 pertains to mental health issues. This section provides several categories of psychological disturbances that the SSA recognizes as potential types of disabling conditions. A doctor or legal professional should probably evaluate how specific disorders fit into these categories but there are some general parameters that SSA gives in how they consider such claims.

Each category has a paragraph A, which describes the medical criteria necessary to sustain a finding that a certain mental disorder is indeed present in an individual. These paragraphs list symptoms associated with the various categories of conditions. However, finding that a condition is present is only the first part of the inquiry. The applicant would then have to substantiate that the mental condition also satisfies the criteria in paragraphs B and/or C for that category. These paragraphs list the extent to which the mental issue has to affect your ability to perform gainful activities. That is, an applicant will have to show first, that there is a medically assessable psychological disorder present, and that the disorder causes such disruption in the person’s daily activities or ability to conduct social interactions that the individual cannot work. Of course, the condition must also meet the standard SSD requirement of having been present for at least 12 months, or being expected to disable the applicant for more than a year.

So, while psychological conditions may not be as easy to document as some physical ailments, there is some mechanism for people with mental conditions to receive SSD. While there are some high hurdles to clear, the safety net is there if you have a debilitating psychological condition.

Source: ssa.gov, “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security 12.00 Mental Disorders – Adult,” accessed Aug. 25, 2014.

Source: ssa.gov, “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security 12.00 Mental Disorders – Adult,” accessed Aug. 25, 2014.

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