Is Bipolar A Disability?

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by cyclic mania, or periods of extreme euphoria followed by bouts of severe depression. Bipolar disorder is not a mood disorder alone, but a category of several mood disorders. It is a condition that is prevalent in both men and women. 

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Signs of the depressive phase of this mental illness include:

  • persistent feelings of hopelessness
  • anxiety
  • anger
  • guilt
  • sadness
  • isolation
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • lack of motivation
  • chronic pain
  • morbid suicidal ideation
  • self-loathing
  • depersonalization.

In severe cases, individuals suffering from this disorder can even become psychotic. Bipolar Disorder symptoms typically manifest sometime between childhood and late adolescence.

Ordinarily, a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis is based on an individual’s self-reported experiences, along with behavioral abnormalities reported by friends, family members and colleagues. These indications are often corroborated by secondary symptoms observed by a social worker, psychiatrist, nurse or other clinicians involved in a clinical assessment.

Assessment of Bipolar Disorder is usually performed on an outpatient basis. A preliminary assessment may consist of a physical examination by a doctor. Generally, examinations are not repeated for relapse cases unless there is an indication of a specific medical need.

Is Bipolar a Disability?

Yes, bipolar disorder is considered a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Bipolar disorder is a disability that can affect someone's ability to work full-time and to function in their daily life. Because of this, you may be able to get disability benefits if you are experiencing bipolar disorder.

Does Bipolar Qualify For Disability Benefits?

Bipolar does qualify for disability benefits and you are able to get disability for bipolar disorder if you meet the medical and work requirements outlined by the SSA. 

If you are looking to apply for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), you need to meet the list criteria outlined by the SSA for bipolar disorder located in section 12.04 in the SSA's Blue Book. Use our Social Security benefits calculator to see how much you could earn for disability for bipolar.

Requirements for Getting Disability With Bipolar

For the SSA to consider bipolar disorder to be a disability, you will need to work with your doctor in order to meet both the medical and work requirements.

Work Requirements

In order to meet the work requirements to qualify for disability with bipolar disorder, you will have to have earned enough work credits while working.

Work credits are calculated by your age and how long you have worked. Generally, you need 40 credits to get disability benefits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled.

Medical Requirements

Once you meet the work requirements, you will also need to meet the medical requirements outlined by the SSA for bipolar disorder to be considered a disability. To qualify for SSA with bipolar disorder, your diagnosis and medical evidence to back it up needs to match the SSA’s Blue Book listing for bipolar disorder.

Financial Requirements

In order to get SSI benefits for bipolar disorder, you need to meet the financial requirements outlined by the SSA. Since SSI is a needs-based program, you need to have very little income and resources.

Information on the financial limitations for SSI is located on the SSA’s website. If you meet both the medical and financial requirements outlined by the SSA, you get disability for bipolar in the form of SSI benefits.

What Are The Chances of Getting Disability For Bipolar Disorder?  

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), applicants trying to get disability for bipolar have approximately a ⅔ chance of getting approved for disability benefits. In other words, the chances of getting disability for bipolar is 2 out of every 3 bipolar disability applicants. 

To speak with a local disability attorney about your Bipolar Disorder case, fill out a free disability review today.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

If an individual’s Bipolar Disorder is constant and impairs all ability to function in a work environment, that person may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Any individual with Bipolar Disorder can be eligible for disability benefits if they meet the evaluation criteria listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, and if they have received a medical vocational disability endorsement based on the person's residual functional ability, education, and age.

Impairments that Qualify for Bipolar Disorder Disability Benefits

The SSA has established that a claimant with Bipolar Disorder must have a history of consistent symptomatic manic episodes, depressive syndromes, or a combination of both. Additionally, the claimant’s bipolar disorder should result in two (2) of the following restrictions:

If a claimant does not meet the aforementioned criteria with bipolar disorder, they may still qualify under a section in the Blue Book, which states that any individual with a medical history documenting at least two years of any chronic affective disorder, including Bipolar Disorder, can be granted disability benefits, despite the support of medication, if the impairment or ailment has resulted in:

  • Limitations of the capacity to perform basic work action, even when symptoms are controlled with psychosocial support and medication.
  • The claimant’s condition must lead to persistent decompensation periods, or
  • The residual illness process has caused a subsidiary adjustment that even a nominal boost in mental demands would cause the claimant to decompensate.

Furthermore, a claimant with bipolar disorder must have been incapable of functioning outside a supportive livelihood for any foreseeable time period. If an individual meets or exceeds these qualifications, there is a good chance of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If a claimant still does not meet the aforementioned criteria with bipolar disorder, they may still apply for bipolar disability based on their remaining functional capacity, education, and age. If mental residual functioning is very limited and one is not capable of meeting the demands of basic routine repetitive activities, it is still possible to qualify for a medical-vocational disability allowance.

Because applying for disability benefits with a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis can be a complex and intimidating process, hiring a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer or disability advocate may be in a potential claimant’s best interest. In fact, working with a disability attorney or advocate is possibly one of the most important signs your disability claim will be approved

How Much Money Do You Get For Bipolar Disability? 

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may be awarded disability benefits. Currently, the maximum benefit payment amount that someone with bipolar disorder can be awarded in 2024 is $3,882 per month. But it can be difficult to get awarded the maximum benefit. The average Social Security disability benefit is usually around $1,500. That’s because there are other factors that determine the amount of benefit you are awarded.  

Some other factors come into play like family contribution, other income, and more. These can influence the amount of the benefit that you receive.

Family Contribution 

If you are receiving money from family members or you live with a family member and don’t have to pay rent, you may receive a lower benefit amount because of the help that you get from your family. If you don’t have a family or if your family doesn’t contribute anything to your expenses or provide you with a place to live, then you may be eligible for a higher benefit. 

Other Income 

If you have a trust fund, an annuity, investment accounts, rental property, or other income that can offset your expenses, that income will be considered when your benefit amount is calculated. You must disclose any other income or assets that you have when you submit your application for disability benefits. 

Work Credits 

In order to receive disability benefits you must have a certain amount of work credits. Work credits are earned based on your salary when you were able to work. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year. 

Can You Work With Bipolar Disorder?

You may still be able to work after you begin to experience bipolar symptoms.  While it was found that about 30%-60% are unable to work after they begin experiencing symptoms, many still do.

Jobs that make it possible for those with bipolar to work include:

  • positions with a flexible schedule
  • part-time jobs
  • quiet, low-stress positions
  • allow for creativity
  • jobs that offer support and assistance when needed.

For assistance with finding a job, you can speak with a vocational rehabilitation expert as well as other organizations that specialize in helping people with disabilities find jobs that work for them. 

If you do begin working, you may still be able to qualify for disability benefits. To do so, you will need to make less than the Substantial Gainful Allowance (SGA). In 2024, the SGA is $1,550/month. If you are able to work and make more, then you will not qualify for disability benefits.

How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Disability With Bipolar

While getting approved for disability is difficult, there are some ways to improve your chances of getting approved. 

  1. Continue medical treatment. Ongoing visits with your therapist and physiatrist are crucial to your claim. Regularly seeing your team of doctors will show the SSA that you are serious about managing your bipolar disorder. Similarly, you should continue any medications or other treatment plans. 
  2. Maintain your medical records. Medical evidence is an extremely important part of your disability claim. Ask your doctors to keep any notes from your meetings. Keep track of any past treatment plans, including ones that did not work. If you had to visit a hospital, gather any records from that visit. The more evidence you can get, the better the chance is that you may be approved for disability benefits with bipolar.
  3. Speak with an attorney. Working with a disability can greatly improve the chance of getting approved for benefits. They can help you gather the correct evidence, file any appeal on time, and even represent you if you need to go to court. In fact, it was found that those working with an attorney may be 3 times more likely to get approved for disability benefits. 

Hire a Disability Lawyer Today

Because Bipolar Disorder is listed in the impairment listing manual of the Social Security Administration, a person with Bipolar Disorder who wishes to file for bipolar disability benefits can win by satisfying specific criteria. If you are planning to apply for SSDI/SSI disability benefits, you should bear in mind that all Social Disability claims with bipolar disorder will be granted or denied benefits based on medical records.

You should strive to keep a consistent treatment regimen for your bipolar disorder before and during the Social Security Disability application process, and if your SSDI/SSI application is denied, you should be prepared to file a bipolar disability appeal. In many cases, a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate can provide invaluable help by guiding you through the application and appeals processes.

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