Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that affects over 5.7 million Americans, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. It frequently appears in individuals after they have reached working age, and the median age of onset for the disorder is 25 years old. For much of the affected population, bipolar disorder responds well to medication and can be managed through a combination of medical treatment and ongoing therapy. However, for some sufferers, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can make it extremely difficult to stay on treatment and interfere with daily life. For these individuals, disability benefits may be an option. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., our Social Security attorneys have helped many Massachusetts residents dealing with the challenges of bipolar disorder determine if government benefits are an option for them.Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability Benefits
While many people apply for disability on the basis of bipolar disorder or another mood disorder, few are granted disability benefits. This is because it can be challenging to prove that you qualify for disability on the basis of bipolar disorder and to show that it has interfered with your ability to hold consistent work.
The Social Security Administration considers applications for disability based on bipolar disorder under its impairment listing for mood disorders, also known as listing 12.04. Most bipolar applicants must meet the qualifications of this listing and show that they have not been able to hold a job.
To qualify under listing 12.04, a bipolar applicant must show that he or she has experienced at least three of the SSA’s symptoms for mania, which include hyperactivity, insomnia, reduced concentration, frenzied speech, paranoid thinking or delusions, or increased risk taking. Additionally, applicants must also show that they have experienced at least four symptoms of depression, including:
- Loss of interest or ability to enjoy activities,
- Inability or disturbance of sleep,
- Decreased energy,
- Suicidal thoughts,
- Negative feelings like feelings of worthlessness, and
- Appetite increase or loss.
Finally, your bipolar disorder must have resulted in two of the following situations: repeated and extended periods of worsening symptoms, a severe difficulty operating in social settings or maintaining social interaction, a severe difficulty with concentration or pace, or severe restrictions on daily activities.
If you do not meet the requirements of a certain listing, you may be able to establish your eligibility for SSDI through a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. This involves showing not only that you cannot work at your most recent job but also that you would not be able to work at any type of position currently available in the national economy. While this standard is challenging to meet, applicants do sometimes receive benefits through this process by providing compelling documentation from their health care providers and often testimony from those who interact with them on a regular basis.
Initial denials of disability applications by the SSA are very common. If you are denied, however, there still may be multiple opportunities for you to receive benefits through the disability appeals process. All disability applicants are entitled to appeals and can use this process to provide additional documentation about their disorder and convince the SSA of the permanent impact on their ability to work. The first step is using the administrative process known as a Request for Reconsideration. If you are unsuccessful at that stage, however, you can take your case to the SSA Appeals Council and ultimately to federal court.Contact an Attorney When Seeking Government Benefits in Massachusetts
Bipolar disorder can be an overwhelming and frustrating condition, full of periods of extreme productivity followed by disabling depression. If you have attempted treatment for your disorder, but you have found that it has not improved your ability to consistently participate in daily life or keep a job, disability benefits may be an option for you. Dedicated to serving Massachusetts residents, our government benefits lawyers can help you understand the SSDI eligibility process. Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. is based in Boston and assists individuals in Norfolk, Suffolk, Middlesex, Plymouth, and Essex Counties, as well as the Merrimack River area. Contact our office for more information at (800) 367-0871 or through our online form.