Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

Seeking SSD benefits for a mental illness can be challenging

Mental illnesses can sometimes be brushed aside when compared to physical ailments. After all, it is easy to see why a person with an amputation or cancer may have limitations, but mental illnesses carry no physical markings, and in some cases there is even a stigma challenging the validity of mental illnesses. Yet for some people in Mobile with a mental illness, life is difficult. Their mental illness may affect their ability to care for themselves, and some may even be unable to leave their homes. When this happens, they should know that it may be possible to pursue Social Security disability benefits.

Under the Social Security Administration's list of impairments, certain mental illnesses will be "inherently disabling." This means that if a person applying for benefits has one of these illnesses, the presumption will be made that the person cannot perform "substantial gainful activity" (although other requirements must also be met in order for a person to be awarded SSD benefits.) The following mental illnesses appear on that list: bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, mental retardation, autism and schizophrenia.

It can be a challenge for the SSA to assess a mental illness. This is for a number of reasons. First of all, the applicant's mental illness itself can keep him or her from being able to accurately describe his or her symptoms and it can make it difficult for the person to abide by their physician's prescribed treatment for the mental illness. Moreover, symptoms of mental illnesses can come-and-go -- one day they're present, the next day they're not. In addition, there are not very many standard tests that can be used to determine how severe a person's mental illness is. Therefore, the SSA has to examine the applicant's medical records, feedback from the applicant's loved ones and an activities of daily living questionnaire.

Therefore, while a mental illness can certainly be disabling, in the end may be possible for those whose mental illness renders them unable to earn a living to receive the SSD benefits they need to get by financially. Those interested in filing for Social Security disability benefits for mental conditions may want to first consult with an attorney, to ensure their application is as complete as possible.

Source: FindLaw, "Mental Health Disability Claims," Accessed April 17, 2017

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