Dr. Patricia Farrell - Jan 15, 2020 ·
Have you been able to work? Are you getting to your job regularly, and are you completing your tasks, or do you find you can’t? Are you a patient and receiving treatment for a psychological problem that is incapacitating you? Maybe you need to apply for Social Security Disability for mental impairment.
It’s not charity. Every paycheck you receive has money dedicated to pay benefits for anyone determined to be disabled in either a physical or a psychological or an impairment of both.
The process isn’t complicated, but you do need to know what documents must be provided, how the impairments are determined, and what to do if you are denied benefits.
The 3 Things Needed (PPC)
“The evaluation of disability on the basis of mental disorders requires the documentation of a medically determinable impairment(s), consideration of the degree of limitation such impairment(s) may impose on your ability to work, and consideration of whether these limitations have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.”
Pace is simple. You must be able to maintain the speed expected of all employees at that job. If you can’t keep up, you fail pace, and you get one point (not literally) toward benefits.
Persistence means you do need constant supervision to do the job and can’t keep going at it alone. Requiring constant supervision or forgetting how to do a job is another point toward benefits.
Concentration, similarly, is the ability to retain your attention on a task to complete it in a timely fashion. Constant distractibility would, therefore, mean that you do not have the requisite concentration needed for a job.
Who Writes the Reports
Reports of your impairments must include the symptoms you exhibit, and examples of each should be provided. All of the reports are primarily written by a physician/psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist. A social worker may provide a report, but an MD usually co-signs it, or it can be submitted as ancillary evidence.
One sentence must NEVER be used in a report because it will carry absolutely no weight whatsoever in the benefits determination. That sentence is: “The patient is totally unable to work.” This says nothing, and that’s why it is useless to you in your application.
Former bosses, supervisors, or even neighbors can provide supporting statements of your actions and how your psychological disability exhibits itself. These statements are extremely helpful. One thing they provide is what is known as your LOF, level of functioning, or GLOF, global level of functioning.
What the Government Doesn’t Tell You
Read all the online reports and recommendations you want, but there are at least two things you won’t find there. Why? Because there’s a tacit understanding regarding Social Security disability and work in America, and it is intended to aid those over the age of 55.
Now, thanks to the digital age and the evergreen trail it leaves, the evidence against these employers and their illegal actions are becoming easier to collect.
But the US Government and the Social Security Administration is well aware that they are pushing the tide back with a broom. They have, therefore, had a quiet understanding that anyone over the age of 55 may be considered “unemployable” given the prevailing bias and age plays a role as another factor.
Age can be positive when anyone is applying for disability. It’s score one for your side. It is an important factor because your ability to earn a living in terms of the years left before retirement is limited. Someone of 30 has many years left to work before retirement and is less likely to receive benefits than the 55-year-old.
So, it’s not necessarily a nod to bias, but to advancing age in terms of applicants. What else besides age is considered?
Physical strength may be a straightforward rule; how much can you lift consistently? If your disability were medical, you’d be expected to lift at least five pounds regularly and not have a problem.
In the case of psychological impairment, lifting isn’t considered unless you also have a physical illness that might cause a problem, say a pulmonary or cardiac condition. In that case, you’d have two impairments; mental and physical. These applicants are much more likely to receive benefits.
Who’s on Your Side?
Applications, even though they have all the records requested, all the accompanying documents and tests or letters attesting to their inabilities, can sit around for months. Why? The person handling your case may not be able to handle the caseload given to them, or they’re slow, or something has been misplaced. Chalk it up to human error.
But human error won’t stand in your way if you make one phone call that will, miraculously, make your case stand out from all the others. What’s the phone call, and to whom should it be addressed?
The United States Senator that represents your district, has a local office. Call them and ask to speak to someone who handles Social Security disability cases. Then explain that your case seems to be languishing, and you need a bit of help right now. If all goes well, a call and a letter will go out on your behalf. It’s called “Sensitive Inquiry,” and it has incredible power to help the system get your case moving. When paper files were used (everything is digital now), a red sticker would have been slapped on the front of your case, and it would have been placed on top of any pile on an adjudicator’s desk. Now it’s probably indicated in some other digital fashion or put into a particular digital folder. Lawyers specializing in disability law are often, I’ve found, more-than-familiar than people at SSD with the nuances of the law. They aren’t required for your application, however, and they do receive a fee.
Many firms cherry-pick the cases they know are slam dunks. Fees are set by law, and the more they get for you (often going back further in years for benefits), means more for them. I neither recommend nor advise against using a specialty law firm, but I do think larger ones may be better.
What If You Are Denied?
Denials happen for many reasons, and one is that the documentation wasn’t sufficient, or it didn’t come from the sources needed. Another reason may be that the consultant who reviewed your case has a bias of some type. It does happen, and it is intolerable.
Apply for a reconsideration, contact your US Senator’s office, or get yourself a major law firm that handles these cases. Never accept a denial without decisive action on your part.
Considering your psychological disability, however, you may not have the energy or motivation. Let others handle it for you.
Now is the time to call in the helpers. Call them.
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D. Psychologist/Author/Consultant
PO Box 761, Tenafly, NJ 07670