Disability and Mental Illness

Unfortunately, mental illness seems to be more common in the last several years than it once was.  Actually, that may be because of progress in treatment.  Many of us however know individuals with mental illness limitations and those limitations are recognized by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”).  If the limitations are severe enough, the Administration will award disability benefits.

Several different mental limitations are included the category of Mental Disorders.  Those include schizophrenic and paranoid disorders, substance addiction disorders (alcohol and drug), anxiety-related disorders and personality disorders.  Also included are intellectual disabilities which can be evaluated through testing.  Particularly when younger individuals are being evaluated, learning disabilities are considered.

The overall evaluation focuses on medical records such that is in important that the individual is receiving consistent and ongoing treatment from psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors. The Administration will look very carefully at those records and may even send the individual for an independent professional evaluation.

In addition to the records, the individual’s ability to adjust to the limitations are considered.  Does he/she get along with others?  Can he/she stay focused on a task?  Does he/she interact socially with others and can the individual perform basic activities of daily living including caring for personal hygiene?  Additionally, the Administration will want to know about medications and whether they help to neutralize the limitations.  They will also consider whether the claimant is or isn’t following the doctor’s orders and suggestions.

If the decision process goes as far as a hearing, the individual will have to explain how well he/she has adjusted.  Any past work and the ability to adjust to the work will be given close scrutiny.  In summary, it always comes down to “how bad are the limitations and do they affect the ability to perform even simple work activities?”.   The claimant seeking benefits with the assistance of an attorney or advocate has the burden of proving that the disability is significant.

Michael A. LeBoeuf, Attorney at Law.

Peter J. Lemoine & Associates

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