When you are applying for Social Security disability (SSD) due to a mental illness or impairment, it may make the process more challenging. That’s because disabilities considered “invisible conditions” don’t typically have outwardly visible physical symptoms. Unlike someone who’s blind, severely arthritic or has an amputated limb, outsiders can’t see external signs of living with mental illness. Therefore, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires substantial evidence that a person does, in fact, suffer from a mental illness. Plus, that claimant must be disabled enough to require Social Security disability benefits. This is why meeting the agency’s Mental Residual Functional Capacity assessment criteria is crucial for mentally ill SSDI applicants.
Conditions That Frequently Meet Disability Claim Requirements
In order to have your Social Security disability case approved, you need to prove that you will be disabled for at least one year or until death and that this disability prevents you from working any full-time job and supporting yourself.
Common mental health conditions approved for SSDI include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
If you have a condition listed in the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances List (CAL), then you are automatically considered disabled. However, if your ailment isn’t on the CAL list, you must still provide evidence supporting your Social Security disability claim. One such means of proof is by completing a mental residual functional capacity (RFC) form. (You can download a blank version of the Mental RFC form here.)
What is a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Form?
Your mental residual functional capacity form documents what sort of work activities you can currently do. It documents which tasks you’re capable of doing regularly, despite your disability and related treatments (i.e., taking antidepressants or attending therapy sessions). The SSA reviews your mental residual functional capacity to determine whether you can perform previously held job tasks or any other, similar kind of work.
In determining your mental residual functional capacity, the SSA looks at both medical and non-medical evidence. For medical issues, the agency reviews your condition’s history, test results, diagnoses, treatments, responses, symptoms and current prognosis. For non-medical issues, the SSA reads reports submitted by people who know you and your condition well, including how it affects your daily life.
The mental residual functional capacity assessment helps the SSA determine if you are able to:
- Complete tasks on a schedule
- Understand, remember and complete instructions
- Maintain concentration and attention for long periods of time
- Make simple judgment calls and decisions
- Interact in an appropriate manner with others
- Maintain regular, on-time job attendance
- Tolerate normal amounts of stress
- Keep up a regular routine without supervision
- Get along with coworkers without being a distraction
- Respond well and adapt to work setting changes
- Stay clean and neat
- Accept feedback appropriately
How Your Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment Impacts Your Disability Determination
After completing your mental residual functional capacity review, the SSA will declare that you are one of the following:
- not significantly limited
- moderately limited
- markedly limited
- that there is insufficient evidence to make a determination in your Social Security disability case
You may qualify for SSDI benefits if you’re markedly limited in certain areas. That would be because you’re unable to perform even simple tasks requiring little to no skill. If the SSA finds you moderately limited, the agency will look for any unskilled jobs you can hold down. This remains true even if it’s something you haven’t done before as a job task. If you are mentally capable of doing one of these jobs, the SSA may deny your Social Security disability claim.
The SSA may also include episodes of decompensation. Decompensation indicates times when your symptoms worsen and you need increased treatment or to be in a less stressful situation. The SSA will see how many times this happens and how long your episodes last.
Consider Getting Professional Legal Advice
Since getting approved for Social Security disability with a mental condition can be especially challenging, you might benefit from speaking to a Social Security attorney or disability advocate. A legal professional experienced in filing disability claims can give you the best advice on how to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
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