Home > NewsRelease > The Top 3 Essentials You Need on a Disability Application For Mental Health Benefits
The Top 3 Essentials You Need on a Disability Application For Mental Health Benefits
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ
Tuesday, May 14, 2024


Applying for Social Security Disability benefits means knowing what improves your chances of approval.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Benefits for any Social Security disability benefits are based on several, not-too-well-known components that are needed in your application and that will be carefully considered by adjudicators. Medical consultants (MDs or PhD licensed psychologists) will also carefully scan certain aspects of an application to see if the individual has an impairment that "meets or equals a listing."

Applicants do not necessarily totally meet a listing (see the listings) but can basically receive benefits as "equaling a listing,” indicating that they are able to do some things but could not maintain what is expected from someone engaged in work activity that pays them a salary. This is where the concept of PPC (pace, persistence and concentration) has an important role in consideration. Applicants must be able to maintain the expected pace on a job, concentrating on the activity and sticking with it to completion.

As indicated above, applicants must meet certain requirements outlined by the SSA. Still, there is that one significant difference: not everyone needs to “meet” a listing; they can “equal” a listing.

Many applicants find it helpful to engage the services of an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability. These legal fees have a cap on how much they can charge for any determined benefit, which may be for several years where benefits were due but never received. Sometimes, applicants will receive benefits for prior years, and it can be a significant amount of money. This is where a carefully documented history of a mental health disorder, in terms of years, must be provided.

What are the psychological disorders that Social Security Disability currently considers?

12.00 Mental Disorders — Adult

Neurocognitive disorders

Schizophrenia, spectrum, and other psychotic disorders

Depression, bipolar, and related disorders

Intellectual disorder

Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders

Somatic symptoms and related

Personality and impulse control disorders

Autism spectrum disorder

Neurodevelopmental disorders

Eating disorders

Trauma and stressor-related disorders

Each of the listings will have several subsections that indicate additional things to consider for that specific disorder. Note that there is no listing for alcohol or drug abuse or obesity. Individuals with these disorders may equal a listing under depression or anxiety disorders. Although the listing for obesity was removed several decades ago, both those with substance use disorders and those who are obese may be considered if they support having other contributing mental health disorders.

Note on Age and Social Security Decisions

When deciding disability benefits, the economy and industry play a part in job possibilities are also taken into account. People over the age of 55 who have had a psychiatric illness and have been treated for it, who may also have a secondary physical impairment, and who have had a solid work background may have a better chance of a positive outcome than younger applicants.

There is an unwritten policy that takes into account how difficult it is for people over 55 to get jobs that pay more than the SGA (sustained gainful activity) level. Younger people are thought to have a longer work window and more chances for new jobs in areas of the growing economy.

What Documentation Should Contain

  1. Report from a healthcare professional (MD or Ph.D. psychologist preferably) and “controlling weight” consideration. According to SSA rules, all the information needed for disability applications must come from “acceptable medical sources.”

For psychiatric conditions, reports are accepted from licensed psychologists, licensed psychiatrists, and licensed doctors of osteopathy. Social workers, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, hospitals, clinics, or other health facilities may also provide proof of disability. All reports from all sources are taken into account when making decisions, but not all of them are given the same weight as the report from a doctor, osteopath, or psychologist. This is where “controlling weight” comes into play.

Controlling Weight: The treating physician (TP) has “controlling weight,” meaning they are the most qualified person to decide how disabling a problem is. It is not possible to overturn the TP’s decision, and someone at Social Security Disability cannot make a different decision in its place. A disability medical consultant or adjudicator cannot use their own opinion.

2. Report or comments from supervisors, co-workers, other persons. Applicants can use both medical and non-medical sources for detailed information about a person’s daily activities, social skills, ability to focus, persistence, and speed, or ability to handle more mental demands (stress). This knowledge can be given by programs like day care centers, community mental health centers, sheltered workshops, and more. Reports from previous companies and long-time associates can also be used.

One word of advice is that no report from anyone should indicate that the applicant is “totally disabled and unable to work.” This is meaningless to Social Security since decisions are based on behaviors and activities.

3. Reports of all hospitalizations, medical treatments (physical or mental). It is possible for medicines taken for problems other than mental health to be considered part of this and seen as making the disability worse because of their side effects. Remember that many medicines can make it difficult to focus, remember things, feel motivated, or even change your mood. Some can even make you sleepy during the day. Also note that ADLs (activities of daily living) are needed. Can a claimant make a meal or only a sandwich? Are they able to maintain their own hygiene without help?

All of this information is provided as ancillary, and should not be seen as absolute, nor should it be seen as legal advice. It is advisable to contact a specialized attorney (there are well-known national firms that specialize in this area.) if you are having difficulty with your application or your claim has been turned down.

Website: www.drfarrell.net

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Attribution of this material is appreciated.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
Cell Phone: 201-417-1827
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