How does the Social Security Administration evaluate mental illness with regard to disability cases?

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How does the Social Security Administration evaluate mental illness with regard to disability cases?

Many applications for Social Security disability cite mental illness as the primary cause of disability.  In addition, physical ailments can come with unseen psychological consequences.  Painful chronic conditions can take a toll on an individual both emotionally and psychologically.  Many of these cases get denied and wind up going to a hearing.  

There are three basic things needed by the Social Security Administration in order to proceed with evaluating your mental disorder.  First, they require documentation of a severe and lasting mental illness.  Then they must be able to consider whether or not your mental illness impairs your capacity to work, and to what extent.  Finally, they must also consider whether or not that limitation has lasted for at least twelve months.

Mental conditions considered by the SSA

SSI mental conditions What kinds of mental illnesses does the Social Security Administration consider in disability cases?

There are nine general diagnostic categories set forth by the Social Security Administration.  They include:

  • 12.02 Organic mental disorders.  This category includes a disabling mental state that can be directly linked to a specific biological (organic) abnormality in the brain that leads to impaired functioning.  For example, a severe head injury that caused permanent brain damage.
  • 12.03 Psychotic disorders.  The most well known psychotic disorder is schizophrenia.  Psychotic disorders involve a decrease in functioning from previous levels.  
  • 12.04 Mood disorders.  Mood disorders are just as they sound – disturbances of mood.  The most common mood disorders include severe depression and bipolar disorder.  A mood, in this case, is considered to be a long-lasting emotion that overshadows the entire psychic life of an individual.
  • 12.05 Retardation.  Retardation involves less than average intellectual capacity.  Deficits in adapting to normal functioning that usually first occur during early development.  Specifically, evidence must exist to support the fact that the impairment began before twenty-two years of age.
  • 12.06 Anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders can involve either generalized anxiety or a manifestation of anxiety when an individual tries to mask other symptoms.  Confronting the object of a phobia or attempting to resist compulsions related to obsessive-compulsive disorders are two examples.
  • 12.07 Somatoform disorders.  Somatoform disorders are those in which physical symptoms arise from no known or perceivable biological mechanism.
  • 12.08 Personality disorders. When maladaptive personality traits become inflexible and result in decreased occupational or social functioning, the individual is said to have a personality disorder.  Maladaptive personality features must be sustained over a long period and not be limited to isolated instances.
  • 12.09 Substance abuse disorders. Physical or behavioral changes the arise as a result of consistent use of substances that impact the nervous system.
  • 12.10 Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disorders. These disorders involve deficits in social interaction, delayed development of communication skills and imaginative activity.  Limited activities and interests, often of a repetitive nature, are also common hallmarks of these disorders.

There are several other conditions that must be met in addition to having one of these disorders.  If you need disability benefits stemming from mental illness or any other condition, contact us today.