Getting Social Security Disability Benefits for Depression or Bipolar disorder


Yes, you can be eligible for SSA benefits for mood disorders and emotional disorders like manic depression, also called bipolar disorder. Being bipolar means that you have intense cycles of manic behavior, characterized by intense feelings of euphoria and hyperactivity. During this phase, you think fast and talk fast; you feel elated. Next, you cycle to feelings of intense depression. This disorder is characterized by alternating cycles of elation and depression. For some people, the cycling is rapid, and for others, the phases can last weeks or month before going into the other cycle.

SSA requires your bipolar disorder must be severe enough to keep you from working. Bipolar disease is a spectrum disorder, and whether you qualify for benefits can largely depend on where you fall on that spectrum. And, your condition must be severe even with proper medications. For example, a mild disorder called cyclothymia (cyclothymic syndrome) rarely qualifies for benefits because individuals tend to be high-functioning.

The SSA has a mood disorder impairment listing that outlines the qualifications. Most people who receive SSA benefits can’t function well enough to even hold down a basic job, even if they’re on medication.

You must have an official diagnosis of either bipolar disorder I or II to qualify. Some bipolar II sufferers have severe enough depression that they qualify under the SSA depression disability benefits. You also must show a documented history of very specific symptoms and the severity of the symptoms. SSA looks for you to have at least three symptoms from their listing:

· Fast and frenzied speech, called pressured speech

· Very distracted

· Partaking in very high-risk activities and not understanding the consequences of doing so

· Very inflated self-esteem accompanied by false beliefs about yourself and others

· Rapidly changing thought patterns, called flight of ideas

· A decreased need for sleep

· Very physical agitated, extreme restlessness or pacing activity

Having three or more of these is not enough; you must show that these symptoms create enough of a functional deficit that you’ve lost the ability to be steadily employed. Additionally, many bipolar individuals have trouble remembering or understanding information like job instructions, or they have trouble applying those instructions to job tasks. As a result, these individuals also have great difficulty completing tasks or maintaining a proper pace of tasks at work.

Bipolar people also typically don’t easily adapt to new surroundings (like a job) or interact well with others, and often exhibit socially inappropriate behavior, and often cannot control their own behavior. In very severe cases, they can have trouble with simple everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, cooking and paying bills.

SSA staff psychiatrists and psychologists will review the evidence you provide in your claim, and will classify the severity of your disorder as moderate, marked (seriously limiting), extreme or as a complete loss of ability.

SSA also has a functional set of criteria above and beyond the symptoms mentioned earlier; the SSA recognizes that some individuals do not show the above symptoms because they are living in a highly structured environment largely sheltered from the everyday stress of a typical home or work environment. If you have medical evidence that your disorder has been persistent over at least two years, you may qualify. You can also show evidence of minimal ability to adapt to new environments or show that you require a great deal of structure in order to function; this can include the need to live under strict supervision in a controlled setting.

To qualify for disability, the SSA focuses on how your bipolar disease impairs your work ability. In fact, most claims are denied because people have failed to show the functional limitations created by their bipolar disorder. Based on the evidence you provide, SSA will provide a mental residual functional capacity (MRFC) rating outlining the level of work they think you’re capable of: skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled.

The SSA grants a medical-vocational disability allowance for bipolar people who can’t even perform unskilled work. However, if SSA finds you capable of unskilled labor, you will likely not receive disability benefits, except if you are age 55 or over with limited education.

The SSA will need a psychiatric medical record from your doctor that provides complete historical evidence of your bipolar disorder. This record should include all treatments and medications you’ve tried, including side effects caused by the medications. The result of all of this must show a functional impairment on your ability to hold a job.

Our firm can help you file your claim for disability benefits, or help you refile if your initial claim has been denied. Give us a call today and we will help you get the bipolar disability benefits you deserve.