Mental Impairments

Obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits in Massachusetts

The disability lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates are dedicated to helping individuals who are unable to work or maintain steady employment due to a mental impairment. For over 25 years, we have served beloved veterans and family members throughout Massachusetts who have suffered from often-undiagnosed disorders that severely limit basic functions. Our firm provides individualized representation to SSDI claimants in Plymouth, Norfolk, Middlesex, Essex, and other counties in the Commonwealth.

Severe Combined Impairments

Mental impairments cover a broad range of disorders that are often undetected and misunderstood. Proper diagnosis and treatment remain elusive in large part because mental illness has historically been ignored or met with violence, making patients more inclined to hide than seek help. Public perception separating “mental” from “physical” disorders makes them sources of fear and shame. However, the effects of mental impairment are often more severe than those associated with physical disability. Under the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers the “combined effect” of all physical or mental impairments in deciding whether their severity merits an award of benefits. 20 C.F.R. 416.921.

Significant Limitations

20 C.F.R. 404.1523 requires that the combined effect of various mental and psychological defects “significantly limit” basic activities, in some cases, making it impossible to work. Medical evidence must establish that the disorder impairs basic work functions, including:

  • Sitting, standing, carrying
  • Comprehension or judgment
  • Executing simple instructions
  • Remembering basic directions
  • Proper response to supervision
  • Behavior in “usual” work setting
  • Social interaction with coworkers
  • Handling changes in work routine

As medical understanding of mental impairments expands, SSA has had to significantly change its disability evaluation “listings” that presume functional limitations meriting benefits without further inquiry. Criteria for mental impairment listings continue to be revised but now include:

  • Paranoia, psychotic disorders
    • Delusions, hallucinations
    • Catatonic, illogical thinking
  • Non-Mosaic Down Syndrome
  • Autism, developmental disorders
    • Deficits in verbal, social function
  • Loss of specific cognitive abilities
    • Emotional, impulse control
    • Disorientation, memory loss
  • Somatoform/non-physical disorders
    • Persistent sense disturbance
  • Substance addiction-related disorders

Social Security Ruling 85-15 emphasizes the importance of vocational testimony in claims based solely on “nonexertional” impairments such as mental illness or pain. SSA revised regulations at 65 C.F.R. 50.745 to assess “complex and highly-individualized” illnesses such as pain, fatigue, “subjective” symptoms, and eating disorders. New criteria include alternatives to traditional IQ testing and episodes of “decompensation” in non-work settings as part of a psychiatric review.

Residual Capacity

In assessing functional capacity, SSA often denied claims based on severe mental impairments, finding that the applicant could still perform unskilled work. However, Social Security Ruling 96-8(p) has since recognized that the ability to work in “low stress” jobs and perform a “laundry list” of daily activities are not proper bases to deny mental impairment claims. Because adverse responses to “seemingly trivial” circumstances is subjective and not a job characteristic, an individualized evaluation of stress “triggers” and the effect of nonexertional impairments on sustained work-like activities is necessary to properly assess mental disorders.

Proving Mental Impairments

If you are applying for SSDI benefits based on a mental impairment in Massachusetts, the social security disability attorneys of Kantrovitz & Associates can help. Because the standards for evaluating subjective symptoms require credible testimony and often-unavailable medical findings, it is critical to have knowledgeable counsel to persuade adjudicators of a mental disability claim when seeking benefits. We have over 25 years of experience obtaining the medical evidence and proof of functional limitations required to win SSDI payment. Our firm recovers substantial compensation for disabled clients New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Call (800) 367-0871 for a free consultation or contact us online.