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Mental disabilities and Social Security, Part 2

In our previous post we discussed the initial process that individuals in California who suffer from mental disorders need to follow to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. As previously discussed, many times a Mental Status Examination is necessary for an SSD application filed on behalf of an individual with a mental disorder. If this is the case, the applicant will be contacted by a consulting examiner for an assessment meeting.

At the examination, the applicant will be required to explain why he or she cannot work provide a history of work experience. The examiner will also require information concerning the applicant's treatment history. A bio-psycho-social interview will also be part of the examination process. This interview will be followed by the formal mental status examination. This examination consists of standardized questions designed to assess the emotional, behavioral and cognitive abilities of the applicant.

Once this examination is completed, the applicant's objective mental status will be documented. The examiner will also provide subjective observations concerning the clinical behavior of the applicant related to demeanor, credibility, effort and motivation. The applicant's overall attitude toward the examination process will be noted, as well.

All of this information is compiled into a report, including a rating that describes the applicant's mental disability in terms of a range - anywhere from mild to moderate to severe.

From there, the report goes to a Disability Determination Service team made up of psychologists and psychiatrists. This team then decides whether the applicant qualifies for disability benefits. If an applicant is denied SSD coverage, an appeal is possible and the case can be re-evaluated.

Clearly this whole process is quite involved. For those individuals who suffer from a mental disorder it may be particularly difficult to navigate the Social Security system alone. An attorney experienced in dealing with the SSA can help.

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

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