Many people make Social Security disability claims based in whole or in part on stress. Most are disappointed with the end result. Roughly 70% of all disability claims are denied initially. Those based on conditions which can be difficult to diagnose and quantitate can be especially hard to get approved.
With that said, the SSA can and does approve disability claims based on stress-in some cases even when it is the only condition. They evaluate stress under the regulations found in Section 12 of the Blue Book. This is the condition which deals with mental disorders. A few types of stress (notably post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD) have their own headings in the Blue Book and are evaluated differently.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you need to have medically verifiable evidence that you are disabled to the point that you cannot reasonably be expected to find and keep gainful employment in any field for which you are qualified. This is true regardless of what kind of medical or mental conditions you have (though there are some particularly serious conditions which automatically qualify you, stress isn’t one of them).
In evaluating your claim, the SSA will consider several things:
- Are you working right now despite your condition? If you are, it is less likely that the SSA will find that you are incapable of continuing in gainful employment because of stress.
- How long have you been out of work due to your condition and/or how long are you expected to be out of work due to your stress and other disabling conditions? To qualify for disability benefits, it must be shown that your condition has kept you out of work (or is likely to keep you out of work) for a year or longer.
- What kind of medical or mental health treatment have you been receiving for your condition? Have you been following it?
- How exactly does your stress hinder you from performing day to day and work related activities?
When you present stress as a disabling condition to the SSA, it is critical that you demonstrate that you have been under medical or mental health care and that you have been doing everything you can to follow any treatment regimen prescribed. If you are not currently being treated, the SSA will provide an evaluation, but your chances for an approval are considerably better with substantial documentation from your own mental health experts.
You will also want to make sure that you detail all of the activities your stress prohibits or limits you from participating in. Include even mundane details. The SSA uses everyday activities to determine whether you could reasonably be expected to perform similar activities on a job site.
Include any and all effects of your stress on relationships with others. The SSA will be trying to determine whether your stress has a significant enough impact on your ability to work with others (co-workers, customers, clients, supervisors, etc.) to merit complete disability.
If you are claiming Social Security disability benefits due to stress, you should consider having a Social Security lawyer handle your case. Not only are you more likely to have your claim approved when you are professionally represented, but you won’t have to go through as much additional stress during the process.