Practice Areas James A. McKown Jr.

Did you know that it is difficult to retain benefits for a mental illness under the Social Security Disability system? This is because it is hard to understand the complexities of a mental issue. A mental illness is not always apparent or tangible - even when something does exist.

Also, those who assess claims for benefits are not medical professionals. In fact, employees who work for the Social Security Administration may not understand the specifics of a mental illness. It does not help that many mental illnesses are inconsistent. The problems associated with a particular illness can be experienced in different ways.

How are mental illnesses assessed?

Employees of the Social Security Administration generally refer to an official list of mental impairments when assessing an application for disability benefits related to mental problems. The official list is commonly known as the "blue book." Conditions on this list are automatically accepted as disabling. This provides the presumption that a person is unable to work and is entitled to benefits. However, even if the condition is on the list, the applicant must still demonstrate that he or she suffers from the specific condition. The applicant's symptoms must mimic the standard symptoms of a listed mental condition. Some mental conditions that presume the need for benefits include autism, depression, schizophrenia, mental retardation and more.

However, again, it is important that an application be supplemented with strong medical evidence. A person may suffer from schizophrenia; however, if there is no documented history of this condition (which details episodes and medical issues), the applicant may be denied benefits.

Conversely, even if a mental condition is not on the list, this does not mean that the person will not be entitled to benefits. There are so many mental and physical impairments out there. It may be a little more difficult to establish the existence of a mental disability that is not in the blue book, but it is not impossible.

To help ensure that an application for benefits is thorough, the best thing to do is to retain legal assistance from a professional. A lawyer will have familiarity with the disability system. An experienced Social Security attorney can assist with gathering medical evidence in support of an application. Also, if an applicant has been denied benefits, a lawyer can help prepare an appeal.

If your mental or physical issue is getting in the way of your life, take the time to speak to a legal professional about your disability.