Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law



(Part 2-Bipolar Disorder)

In the prior section regarding schizophrenia, we established that the Social Security Administration treats claims that are based solely on mental impairments differently from those based on physical impairments.

As a reminder, most claims at the initial level are denied, but a large percentage of claims that are brought before Administrative Law Judges at disability hearings are approved, and this is particularly true for represented claimants. However, the appeals process can take 1-2 years. As with any mental illness allegation, it is imperative that disability claimants provide substantial documentation in the form of medical records at the very beginning of the application process.

The Social Security Administration's disability listings can be particularly helpful to some applicants dealing with Bipolar disorder. This means that a person filing for disability can potentially be approved via a medical vocational allowance, a process by which it is shown that they cannot work and earn a substantial and gainful income by meeting the below requirements, via their medical record documentation. Bipolar disorder is evaluated under Affective disorders, part 3. Here is the section of the listing that addresses bipolar disorder:

12.04 Affective disorders: Characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life; it generally involves either depression or elation.

The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements in C are satisfied.

3. Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes (and currently characterized by either or both syndromes);


B. Resulting in at least two of the following:

1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or

2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or

3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or

4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;


C. Medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder of at least 2 years' duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:

1. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration; or

2. A residual disease process that has resulted in such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment would be predicted to cause the individual to decompensate; or

3. Current history of 1 or more years' inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued need for such an arrangement.

As a law firm specializing in Social Security disability cases, we have seen individuals with well documented histories of decompensation get denied. Including fairly severe cases of bipolar disorder on the basis of duration (a durational denial is a denial made on the basis of an assumption that a condition will not last the required twelve months needed to satisfy the Social Security Administration's definition of disability), which is quite frustrating considering the waxing and waning nature of bipolar disorder.

Unfortunately, understanding the listing requirements for bipolar disorder and acquiring the proper documentation can be quite frustrating for applicants. According to the National Mental Health Council, there are approximately three and a half million Americans who suffer from brain disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. And forty percent of these individuals receive no treatment. In many instances, the lack of treatment may be due to an individual never having sought treatment. However, there are too many cases in which those who seek treatment find no avenue by which to continue receiving treatment. Receiving treatment is crucial to your claim, and our firm has vast experience in guiding claimants in the right direction.

If you are disabled due to bipolar disorder and in need of assistance navigating the disability process, call one of the experienced disability attorneys at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free consultation. Gardberg & Kemmerly specialize in helping the injured and disabled.

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