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I Need to Apply for Social Security Disability benefits given my Mental Health. What Concerns Should I Have Going Forward?

If you are suffering from severe mental health concerns that are causing you to consider an application for Social Security disability benefits, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind. As a Social Security lawyer who has handled 1000’s of Social Security disability claims in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire over the course of more than 34 years I would tell you that a number of recurring issues do arise.

One of the biggest questions one should ask themself before considering an application for Social Security disability benefits is whether you have undergone aggressive treatment for your condition. We receive calls on a regular basis from those who are solely treating with their primary care physician, receiving a very low dose of an anti-depressant medication for example. Our advice to those who are thinking about applying for disability benefits is to give thought as to what conditions they believe are severe and keeping them from working a job. For each such condition, consideration needs to be given to seeing a specialist. The goal should always be to get better first and to return to work if possible. Thus, if one’s mental health remains a major concern, the question needs to be asked as to whether everything is being done to treat the condition: are you seeing a specialist: that is to say, a counselor or psychologist for counseling, and a psychiatrist for purposes of psychiatric medication management. Zealous efforts at medication management and counseling will serve 3 purposes: 1), it will provide your best chance at getting better, 2) it will speak volumes to the Social Security Administration (SSA) as to one’s motivation to try and get better and 3) the treatment records from the visits will provide critical evidence from a mental health professional that may serve to support a finding that one remains severely disabled from all forms of gainful employment despite prescribed treatment.

Even if you find yourself without insurance, there may be avenues available to you for treatment. There may very well be free treatment options, or insurance options through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, or by way of Mass Health (obtained through the Department of Transitional Assistance in Massachusetts), Mainecare out of the State of Maine or Medicaid (through the Department of Health and Human Services in New Hampshire). Certainly, an experienced Social Security disability lawyer may be able to assist you with finding such services.

Likewise, understand that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is looking to see if your mental health condition constitutes a severe medically determinable impairment. As part of this process, it’s important to understand that your condition must be first properly diagnosed, which can only take place by what is termed an “acceptable medical source” under Social Security’s regulations. These regulations were recently amended such that for claims filed on or after March 27, 2017, acceptable medical sources are deemed to include not only licensed physicians (including medical and osteopathic doctors) and licensed psychologists, but also now include physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses. With this in mind, it’s important to understand that treating with a family nurse practitioner or simply a counselor will not be sufficient to establish one’s diagnosis with SSA (or the fact that your mental health condition should constitute a severe medically determined impairment).

It’s important to consider as well whether one’s medical condition, while perhaps prohibiting certain types of employment (such as the ability to work with the public or in a fast-paced environment, for example) might still allow for other manner of employment. For example, if one is having difficulty working with the public, they may be better suited to a more isolated type of position such as a night office cleaner, or in a light industrial setting as a machine operator or assembler. Once again, SSA is looking to see whether a disability claimant remains unable to perform any manner of gainful employment despite prescribed treatment (not simply the work that they have performed in the past).

Should your case proceed to the hearing level, in front of an Administrative Law Judge, understand that the judges may look to see whether your mental health condition has manifested itself as severe enough so as to require emergency room or crisis intervention, or for that matter inpatient hospitalization or outpatient partial hospitalization. The tendency for many who are suffering from mental health problems can be to isolate themselves. This turns out to be the worst thing for a potential claim. SSA requires objective medical evidence of one’s medical condition and this is simply not possible unless seen by one or more acceptable medical sources. Thus, be seen so your problems can be heard.

For additional answers as to how best to move forward with your Social Security disability claim, in light of your particular set of medical circumstances, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 for a free consultation.