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Proving a mental disorder for SSA Disability

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Whether you have a physical or mental disorder, assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements of the SSI or SSDI program, the SSA will send your information to the disability determination services office or (DDS). According to the SSA, the disability determination services offices are “a network of local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and State agencies (usually called Disability Determination Services or DDSs)

What do the DDS do? The DDS are responsible for developing medical evidence and evaluating whether a claimant is disabled or blind, according to the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability, and whether they qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits. These offices are generally located within each state’s vocational rehabilitation agencies.

How does the DDS make their disability determination for a mental disorder?

SSDI and SSI cases are approved by the DDS office based on the medical records provided by their medical sources. For mental health claims these records can include records from mental health facilities, treating psychiatrists and psychologists. The claimant may also have information from a family doctor but for claimants with a serious health disorder the SSA will expect that they have been seeing a mental health professional and that they are following their doctor’s mental health treatment plan.

What do my mental health records need to say about my mental disorder?

Whether you are applying for SSDI or SSI you will have to prove that your mental health condition is so severe that you are not able to work for at least 12 continuous months. With this in mind, your medical evidence needs to clearly indicate that you have a long-term mental disorder and it is severely disabling.

Review the SSA listing of impairments which is a list of all the conditions and corresponding symptoms that the SSA considers automatically disabling. Find your condition on this list and make sure your medical records have a clear diagnosis and list any symptoms you may suffer from. If your mental disorder is on the SSA listing of impairments or if your mental disorder or symptoms “meets or exceeds” another listing you should be approved for benefits.

Medical evidence for your SSI or SSDI disability case can include treatment records from doctors, hospitals, mental hospitals and mental health doctors. They can also include medical examinations from a consultative examiner prepared specifically for the Social Security Administration evaluation process, summaries of your treatments, doctor’s notes, and medical opinions.

Proving disability for a mental health condition

If your condition does not meet a listing in the SSA listing of impairments it becomes critical that you have evidence that you are not able to engage in work activities.

Depending on your condition, the examiner will be looking for medical evidence that you lack the inability to concentrate, follow instructions, get along with co-workers, follow a normal work schedule or a normal work week, and perform normal daily activities.

Specifically the examiner will evaluate your memory and concentration, concentration and persistence, social interaction, and adaptation (responding to the work setting, adapting to normal precautions, travelling to familiar places and setting realistic goals).

The examiner will also evaluate whether you have episodes of decompensation. Decompensation periods are times when your ability to function deteriorates below an adequate level. Claimants who have extended or multiple periods of decompensation may have difficulty maintaining employment.

Proving you are mentally disabled and unable to work basically comes down to a great medical diagnosis and clear indications of your symptoms and your functional limitations to perform work activities.
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