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Mental disabilities and Social Security, Part 1

Social Security Disability benefits provide income to those who are unable to work. In most cases recipients of Social Security Disability benefits will receive a monthly disability payment in the form of cash and sometimes there is the possibility of enrollment in the Medicaid health insurance program.

Among forms of disability that may qualify for Social Security Disability coverage are mental disorders. If a mental disability prevents an individual from obtaining or sustaining a job and he or she otherwise has limited resources, SSD may be a possibility.

Mental disorders that can qualify for SSD coverage include many mental diagnoses, including but not limited to:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Learning disability
  • Mental retardation
  • Panic disorder

In order to determine if a California resident qualifies for SSD, an application must be filed with the Social Security Administration. The application requires extensive information concerning the individual's mental impairment history, medical treatment history, work history, educational history and family history.

The SSA will process this information and will request supporting documentation listed on the application. This would include information from anyone who has evaluated or treated the applicant.

Often, the original application does not contain sufficient information for the SSA to make a disability decision. In such a case, the application is sent to the Designated Medical Review Teams area where a Mental Status Examination by a consulting examiner takes place.

In our next post, we will describe the Mental Status Examination process that may be required before some SSD applicants with mental disabilities can be granted benefits.

Source: Observer & Eccentric, "Navigating Social Security disability benefits," Len McCulloch, March 18, 2012

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