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Mental health conditions and SSD

pSickLibrarian_Dollarphotoclub_19005451-200x300.jpgEvery May, Mental Health Month serves as a reminder that millions of Americans, including many here in Tennessee, live with mental disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that mental illness affects about one-quarter of U.S. adults. These illnesses can have wide-ranging impacts, and victims often experience significant cognitive or physical impairments.

People who suffer from especially debilitating mental disorders may struggle to work, care for themselves and perform other routine activities. These individuals may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. However, as any SSD Tennessee lawyer understands, establishing the legitimacy and severity of a mental disorder is often challenging.

Recognized disabilities

The Social Security Administration automatically recognizes some mental disorders as disabling. These conditions and the criteria they must meet are listed in the SSA's "Blue Book" of disabling impairments. The Blue Book recognizes the following categories of disabling mental disorders:

  • Affective and anxiety-related disorders
  • Psychotic and personality disorders
  • Organic mental disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders

For each disorder, the Blue Book specifies symptoms that people claiming SSD benefits must document. Necessary medical documentation may include psychiatric evaluations, clinical tests and assessments from qualified professionals. For some disorders, the Blue Book also requires additional evidence, such as personal statements or third-party descriptions of symptoms.

As any SSD Tennessee lawyer knows, people who cannot meet these listing terms may still receive SSD benefits. If a person's disorder and symptoms are equal in severity to a listed impairment, the person may "equal" the listing. Some people may also qualify for medical-vocational allowances.

Seeking allowances

The SSA awards medical vocational allowances to people who cannot resume past work or pursue new work because of their impairments. To decide whether this is the case, the SSA weighs various factors, including the person's disorder, age and job-related skills. One decisive factor is residual functional capacity.

RFC is a measure of a person's functional capabilities with the mental disorder factored in. An official mental RFC assessment evaluates a person's memory, concentration, decision-making ability and more. The SSA assesses mental RFC based on medical evidence. People seeking SSD benefits can also directly ask a treating physician to complete an RFC assessment form.

Claiming multiple impairments

During an RFC assessment, all of a claimant's physical and psychological impairments are considered. As an SSD Tennessee lawyer could verify, even adverse effects of medication can be counted as impairments. Consequently, many claimants may receive SSD benefits by qualifying for medical-vocational allowances, rather than meeting Blue Book terms.

Claimants seeking allowances should document all of the impairments they suffer from, including those that aren't independently disabling. Documenting even minor impairments may ultimately improve a person's chances of receiving SSD benefits for a mental disorder.

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