Social Security Disability for Mental and Physical Problems
Social Security Disability (SSD) and SSI applicants should be sure to list all of their medical conditions, including mental impairments, on their application. Often those applying for disability do not list any mental symptoms such as depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, etc., because that is not the condition on which they are basing their claim.
It is important to supply this information on your application so that the disability examiner can have it in front of him or her when deciding what types of employment you might be able to do. For example, if you are filing for SSD based on a physical condition, such as back pain, an examiner may determine that although you are unable to perform strenuous physical activity, you would be able to perform another more sedentary job. This may or may not be possible in light of your mental state, but an examiner won’t even take your mental symptoms into consideration unless you include them on the claim, or your medical records somehow make reference to a mental condition.
However, it is not enough to just list your symptoms on the disability application. All disability decisions are based on medical evidence, so you will need some kind of medical documentation to substantiate your mental condition. Disability examiners are likely to conclude that your condition is not severe if you have never sought medical help for it. If you feel your mental state is contributing in any way to your disability, seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible, preferably a psychiatrist (MD), whose opinion will carry a great deal of weight with the disability examiner or the judge at a disability hearing. If you are uninsured or unable to afford mental health care, there are some agencies out there that provide these services on a sliding scale (you pay what you can afford) or even for free. Call your local county health department social services agency for a list of these services in your area.
If you do not have a history of treatment to support your claim, then the examiner in your case is likely to schedule you for a CE (consultation examination) to determine the severity of your mental symptoms. The social security administration pays for CEs, so there is no cost to the claimant, but that is the only advantage. CEs are performed by independent physicians selected by social security, and are not likely to help anyone win a disability claim. It’s important to note here that, even if you do have a history of treatment for your mental condition, the SSA may still require you to attend a CE. However, if you have medical records documenting the severity of your condition and how long it has been limiting (longitudinal history), as well as how long it is likely to persist, this information will be used in conjunction with the CE to help determine your overall state of health, and thus your ability to work.
Regardless of if you are filing for disability based on a mental condition or physical condition, you should strive to provide the disability examiner with as much medical documentation as possible so that he or she has a clear picture of how your impairment limits your ability to work, or to attend school if the applicant is a child.
CEs can provide only a snapshot of the claimant’s current physical or mental illness, and are no substitute for a history of medical treatment that documents when your symptoms first began to affect you (date of onset) and how they have worsened over time.
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