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Can I get SSDI for a mental health condition?

The Federal Government offers Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to claimants who have a physical or mental health condition which is so severe they are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months. Mental health conditions do qualify for benefits, but like physical conditions, the claimant must have sufficient medical evidence to prove they are disabled.


Proving you have a mental health condition


 

The first steps to winning SSDI for a mental health condition is getting good medical treatment. For instance, if you claim to have depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia the Social Security Administration will assume you have gone to the appropriate mental health doctor, you have been following their treatment plan, but you remain unable to work.

Claimants who have seen a doctor will have medical documentation from their treating psychiatrists and psychologists and medical documentation which outlines why they are not able to work and perform routine daily activities.

For instance, if you are severely depressed your medical records should outline your inability to work. The SSA is specifically reviewing your concentration levels, your ability to follow directions, your ability to maintain a normal work day and work week, your ability to learn new tasks and your ability get along with others. They will also review whether you can complete normal daily tasks such as bathing, sleeping, eating and properly grooming yourself.

Have you had episodes of decompensation?


 

Not only will the SSA evaluate your work and personal functioning, they will also review whether you have had periods of what they call decompensation. According to the SSA, this includes periods of time where the claimantÂ’s functioning deteriorates and they have to have increased intervention- medications, support systems, or placement in a mental hospital.

If you have had several periods of decompensation this will help your case because the SSA recognizes that frequent episodes of decompensation will inhibit your ability to maintain employment.

What if I have not seen a doctor for my mental health condition?


 

Severely mentally ill claimants often are unable to maintain employment and lack insurance to receive proper medical treatment. How do you get SSDI benefits if you do not have medical records and cannot see a doctor?

Not easily. Unfortunately, it is tough to get benefits without good medical records which support your claim. Claimants who have not had medical care may be sent to a consultative examiner who will review their case and provide medical information to the SSA, but these examinations are often short, and it is difficult for a consultative examiner to understand certain conditions in a ten to fifteen minute evaluation. It is much better if you have an established doctor who has examined you over a period of months and can clearly speak to the severity of your condition.

So whatÂ’s the bottom line? If you have a severe mental health condition the best thing you can do is to get treatment. If you do not get treatment the SSA is likely to argue that you could work if you had proper treatment.
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