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Mental health SSDI claims present unique challenges

People with a mental health issue that prevents them from working may be able to claim Social Security Disability Insurance, just as those with physical disabilities can. However, they often face some additional challenges when filing an SSDI claim for a mental disorder.

Mental disorders can be more difficult to conclusively diagnose than physical ones. Sometimes the very nature of the condition makes it difficult for a person to describe his or her symptoms.

Further, you must be able to show that the condition from which you are suffering renders you unable to perform the functions required for what the Social Security Administration calls "substantial gainful activity" for at least 12 months.

A person's ability to perform substantial gainful activity is based on something called "residual functional capacity." Based on medical examinations and sometimes reports from family, friends and co-workers, a person's RFC level is determined. It generally has to be labeled as at least "markedly limited" in one or more areas such as memory, concentration, understanding or social interaction to qualify for benefits.

With some mental disorders, the symptoms aren't consistently present and may disappear for a time. If a person isn't symptomatic at the time of the medical evaluation, the condition may be difficult for a doctor to diagnose. In some cases, the SSA may bring in its own independent medical professional to evaluate a claimant as well.

The SSA has a list of mental impairments that it deems to be "inherently disabling." These include:

-- Anxiety

-- Autistic disorders-- Bipolar disorder

-- Depression

-- Mental retardation

-- Schizophrenia

Of course, there are people suffering on some level from these impairments who are able to hold a job, particularly when they receive proper treatment. It's also possible to receive SSDI for mental conditions not on the SSA's official list. You may be able to receive SSDI for mental disorders caused by substance abuse as long as the person is no longer using that substance.

As you can see, filing an SSDI claim for a mental disability can be challenging. Many people give up or don't even try because of the social stigma still attached to too many mental disorders. However, an experienced Alabama SSDI attorney can guide you and your family through the process and work to improve your chances of receiving the benefits you need.

Source: FindLaw, "Mental Health Disability Claims," accessed April 20, 2016

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