How Can you Prove a Mental Disability to the SSA?

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How to Prove a Mental Disability

You can prove your mental disability by meeting a Blue Book impairment listing. The Blue Book is the list of conditions that qualify for disability. There are a number of mental disabilities that qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

To prove your mental illness disability, you will need to have medical documentations, records and notes from any physicians you are seeing to show that your mental disability makes it impossible for you to work full time. The more medical evidence you have, the easier it is to prove your mental disability.

Proving the existence of a disabling condition is one of the key objectives of your Social Security Disability claim. Undeniably, this relies heavily upon the results of medical tests and physical ability evaluations (known as Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) forms in disability terminology) provided from your treating physician(s).

Although mental impairments can be just as disabling as physical ones, they are often more difficult to prove because of the absence of conclusive testing methods, concrete evidence, and the lack of consistency in observable symptoms.

This does not mean that it is impossible to be approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) with a mental disability; it is just more challenging. To learn more about how to increase your chances of getting disability for mental illness, check out our article on the signs that you will be approved for disability.

Because you are experiencing a mental illness, you may not be able to adequately express or even be aware of your own symptoms, which is a required part of first reaching a diagnosis, and then filing your disability claim.

This is why it is vital to receive the supporting testimony of those who are closest to you and are able to most thoroughly and accurately describe your behavior in order to reach a conclusive diagnosis.

Evidence To Prove Mental Disability

Proving that you have a mental disability and can’t work isn’t as hard as people think. Medical records and psychological records can be used to show that your mental condition is so severe that you can’t work.

You will have to use medical records to show that you meet one of the listings for mental illnesses in the Blue Book. For example, in order to prove that you have severe depression and can’t work you would need to show that you have at least five of these symptoms:

  • depressed mood
  • decreased energy
  • difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • loss of interest in most activities
  • a slowing of physical movement or speech, or increased physical agitation, like pacing
  • poor appetite or overeating with weight gain or loss
  • insomnia or oversleeping
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt, or
  • suicidal thoughts.

And you also need to show that you have an extreme limitation in one of these areas, or a severe limitation in two or more of these areas: understanding and remembering instructions and learning new things

  • interacting with others appropriately
  • concentrating and completing tasks, or
  • managing yourself (handling change, being able to cook, shop, and pay bills, and practicing good hygiene).

Medical tests and psychological evaluations can be used to show that you meet the SSA’s requirements for the mental condition that you have. You can also use things like:

  • Blood tests
  • PET scans
  • MRIs
  • CAT scans
  • Prescription records

An RFC describing your symptoms in great detail and detailing how those symptoms make it impossible for you to work.

Who Can Help You Prove Your Mental Disability

Family members, friends, social workers, and other key figures whom you interact with regularly are the key to a solid testimony for your mental impairment and its effect on your ability to perform routine functions, interact socially, and most importantly, obtain sufficient employment.

Of course, the testimony of friends, relatives, and even human service workers alone is not sufficient to prove your disability status. In keeping with the SSA’s definition of a disability, your condition must be able to medically determined and diagnosed.

Medical specialists who are most qualified in evaluating mental conditions are usually psychologists and psychiatrists. These professionals’ diagnosis of your condition must not only include a clinical label such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.; it must also show that you are unable to perform any work because of it.

The SSA’s evaluation of whether your mental impairment qualifies as a disability is based on their effects on four areas of your life: your daily living, your social interaction, your ability to focus and complete tasks, and your reaction to stress and pressure.

In order to qualify for disability with most mental conditions, your supporting proof must show that you are unable to function normally in at least two of the four areas. Some mental illnesses, such as personality disorders, require three out of four areas to show serious dysfunction. For more information on how the SSA evaluates mental impairments, check the Blue Book guidelines provided on the SSA’s website. Just as with medical impairments, your mental condition must not only be conclusively diagnosed, but proven to keep you from performing work of any kind.

Many claims are initially denied, so don't panic if you are initially denied disability. You can file an appeal.

Considering applying for Social Security disability benefits but not sure how much you’ll earn per month? Our Social Security Benefits Calculator can help you determine how much you’ll receive from the SSA before you file for disability

Because of the difficulty of conclusive diagnosis of mental illnesses and the unpredictability and complexity of their nature, it is also highly recommended that if you are filing for disability benefits with a mental illness, you hire a disability attorney or disability advocate.

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