Can I receive Social Security Disability for a Mental Health Condition? The main question is: How bad are your symptoms?
Many clients wonder why they should bother going to mental health therapy if they are already getting medication from a primary care doctor. First, if your doctor thinks you should go to therapy, you should follow his or her advice. Second, you may feel better if you start going to therapy. And third (most importantly for our purposes), it will help you to prove your case.
Any evaluation of mental health in the Social Security Disability context is highly concerned with the severity of the claimant’s symptoms. If your symptoms are controlled with medication, you are unlikely to get disability for mental health problems. If medication improves your symptoms, but you still have deficits in concentration, memory, interacting with others, leaving your home, completing tasks, etc… you may very well be able to win a disability case. But, you have to prove it.
How does a lawyer prove that your mental health warrants disability? Usually, with therapy records that support ongoing, frequent, and serious mental health problems.
Mental health therapy records typically provide far more details about mental health symptoms than that of a primary care provider or psychiatric medication provider (psychiatrist/nurse practitioner).
If you are going to mental health therapy and have a pending disability case, you should understand that eventually Social Security will be reading these records. Therapy record should provide detailed documentation of what you tell your therapist. You should always tell your therapist the truth. This also means that you need to open up and tell the whole truth. If you are not really doing good, fine or okay, don’t tell your therapist that. You shouldn’t just try to rush through your session. Fully disclose what is going on. If therapy and medication is helping, you certainly should tell your providers that. However, if you remain still having panic attacks, you should detail how often they occur and what the causes of these attacks are. If you still have crying spells, you should do the same. If you have days where you cannot leave the home because of your symptoms, you should tell your therapist that and you should explain what it is like to be you on those days. If you struggle to pay attention, you should be sure to explain to your therapist how this is the case, where you notice the struggle, and how it impacts getting things done throughout the day. If you have any level of hallucinations (even if they are getting better) you should still explain what remains, how often they occur, and how it impacts you. If you have suicidal thoughts, be sure to mention this and be sure to explain how you get through this, how often it happens, and how long these thoughts last. If you struggle to interact with other people, you’re your therapist how you feel when you are around others. Being open, honest, transparent, and fully disclosing what is going on is not only key to proving a case, but it could also be the key to getting better treatment, feeling better, and perhaps not even needing disability because you got back to work.
When a client regularly tells a therapist about the above problems, they are far more likely to be believed when they tell a Judge the same thing. It is much easier for a lawyer to prove that you would be unproductive or need breaks to calm down in the workplace, if you have regularly been telling your therapist about concentration problems and small things that overwhelm you thus causing panic attacks or crying spells. It is much easier for us to prove that you will miss too much work to keep a job, if you are regularly telling your therapist that you are so depressed that you cannot get out of bed at times, or that you are sometimes so anxious that you cannot leave the house.
Not only will your therapist document your symptoms, but therapists also make their own observations about your presentation. They will document if you look depressed, look anxious, seem stressed, act irritable, are preoccupied, or cannot concentrate during your appointments. These observations can also provide strong evidence in a disability case.
Furthermore, therapists are often willing to complete assessments drafted by disability lawyers that are aimed at showing exactly why your mental health prevents sustained employment. These individuals typically know more about your symptoms then any other health professional. Hence, a Judge is likely to give extra consideration to what they say- especially if the therapy records back it up.
The bottom line is that when you see a therapist (just like when you see the Judge), you should tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Telling the whole truth means that you need to open up and tell the full story about your symptoms. If you are improving or feel okay, be sure to also fully explain what symptoms still remain.
If you believe that you cannot work because of a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, a personality disorder, etc…, please give us a call so that we can advise you about pursuit of a Social Security Disability or SSI claim. We offer free consultations, and we do not charge any fees unless we help you win your case.