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How to Prove Disability If You Have a Mental Condition

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Mental illness and disability can be especially hard for employers to identify and accommodate for, and people with cognitive disabilities have just a 24.2 percent employment rate. And if you are unable to work due to mental cognitive impairments, anxiety related impairments, or affective impairments, you may find it difficult to prove a Social Security Disability Insurance claim.

While proving a mental disability can be a challenge, it's not impossible. Here's how to do it:

Mental Treatment Records

The first thing SSI reviewers will look for are medical treatment records that can demonstrate your disability. Medical records can include reports from mental health facilities and treating psychiatrists and psychologists. Even if you've been treated by your own family physician or given a recurring prescription by your personal doctor, those records could be sufficient evidence of your disability.

These treatment records should address your ability, or inability, to engage in normal daily activities, as this can be indicative of your inability to engage in normal employment activities. Evidence of a diminished ability to concentrate, learn, follow, and retain instructions, and an inability to get along with both managers and co-workers could all demonstrate a mental disability.

Evidence of Episodes of Decompensation

Something SSDI examiners will pay especially close attention to is "evidence of episodes of decompensation," which is legalese for the inability to do something that you used to do. This deterioration of ability could be due to prolonged stress, fatigue, or psychiatric illness, and can provide the best evidence of your inability to consistently engage in work activity.

But even if you don't have a mental condition that results in extended episodes of decompensation, you may still be eligible for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration will consider all the limitations that may be the result of mental impairments, like your inability to maintain attention and concentration or memory deficits that impair your ability to remember tasks and receive new training.

If you've had a disability claim denied, or are thinking about filing a claim for disability benefits, you should contact an experienced disability attorney near you.

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