Applying for Social Security Disability for Mental or Psychological Condition (Part 1)

How to Apply for Social Security Disability for
Mental Illness or Psychological Condition (Part 1)

In this two part article, our experienced Long Beach Social Security lawyers discuss applying for Social Security Disability for a mental illness or other psychological conditions.

To collect Social Security Disability for any condition – including a Mental Illness or a Psychological Condition – the SSA examiner needs to be satisfied that three elements are met:

1. You must have a “medically determinable impairment” (a solid diagnosis based on objective evidence),
2. For a condition that has lasted or will last for at least a year, and,
3. Is so severe that it impairs your functioning so much that you cannot work.

Many, many documents are examined in order to make the determination as to whether or not your disability meets these three criteria. In this two part article our experienced lawyers walk you through the numerous steps of the Social Security Disability process – and how they apply to an applicant with a mental or psychological disability. However, there is no substitute for having the guidance and representation of an experienced Social Security lawyer to help you win your case.

Documents in Social Security Disability Case for Mental Illness

Social Security Disability Application Form

The first document that the SSA looks at is your disability application. You may complete it yourself, or a Social Security representative may complete the forms for you either over the phone or in-person.

When you fill out your disability application, be sure to be thorough and list all of your medical conditions and all of the ways that they prevent you from working – even if you believe that only one of the impairments is keeping you from working. In many cases, a “combination” of factors is what actually leads to a Social Security Disability approval!

Social Security Disability ADL Function Report

Next the Social Security examiner will have you complete a questionnaire about your activities of daily living (“ADLs”). This form is called a Function Report (Form SSA-3373) – but may also be referred to as an ADL Questionnaire. On this form you are required to describe the ways that your impairment limits your daily life, and will include questions about a wide range of activities, including the time you spend with others, doing housework, shopping, getting around outside your home, spending money, and more.

Again, be thorough. If your mental illness or psychological condition causes you to have trouble following directions, makes it difficult to get along with coworkers or supervisors, or makes you unable to handle stress, describe those problems in your ADL questionnaire.

Social Security Disability Medical Records

Social Security is required to review any and all of your relevant medical records for at least twelve months before the date of your application for benefits. So, when you complete your application, make sure to thoroughly list all of your treatment providers, including: your doctors, counselors, therapists, hospitals or clinics You will be asked to sign an Authorization to Disclose Information (Form SSA-827) authorizing your records to be released to the SSA.

The Social Security Administration does have the obligation to try and get all of your medical records. However, submitting them yourself will help speed up your case and will also ensure that nothing is missed.

Social Security Psychiatric or Neurological Tests

The medical records that you and/or your doctors and treatment providers supply to the SSA should contain the results of any and all psychiatric, neurological, or psychological tests that you have had. Most mental health conditions cannot be simply or easily be evaluated with an objective test – so everything you supply is crucial to obtaining a favorable decision. For conditions where objective testing is possible (examples: CT scans for Alzheimer’s disease; IQ test for mental retardation), Social Security will be looking carefully at those specific test results – so be sure to include them.

Social Security Disability Treatment Notes

Our experienced Social Security Disability lawyers believe that the most important source of documentation in mental or psychological disability claims is probably the Treatment Notes from your mental health treatment providers. Unfortunately, treatment notes can often be unclear or even incomplete or contain insufficient details. The Social Security examiners will need to see the specific details of your treatment, including: your exact diagnosis (in medical terminology), your specific range of symptoms, your specific treatment plan, your short-term and long-term prognosis, as well as every medication you have been prescribed.

Additionally the examiners will be reviewing your Treatment Notes for information on how well or how poorly you responded to every kind of treatment that your provider offered. And, they will also be examining your treatment notes for specific details about how your mental condition has impaired your functioning. For example: if leaving the house causes you to have panic attacks, the treatment notes should specifically state that you are unable to leave the home to shop or go to work because of your anxiety.

NOTE: Social Security examiners DO NOT use psychotherapy therapy notes in their evaluation of your mental or psychological disability. The notes that are taken during your counseling or therapy sessions – i.e. your personal conversations with your doctor – are privileged (“confidential”) and may not be review in order to protect your privacy. If they are in the middle of other relevant records, your Doctor must “black out” any psychotherapy therapy notes before sending your records to the SSA.

CLICK HERE for Part 2 of this Article about Social Security Disability & Mental Illness