Social Security Disability and Bipolar Disorder

One of the more common mental disability claims made with the Social Security Administration is for Bipolar Disorder.  Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
The National Institute of Mental Health defines four types of bipolar disorder.  “All of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.”[1]
The Social Security Administration’s Listings Rules allows the finding of “Disabled” if the Claimant is able to show that he or she suffers from at least three of the following:
  1. Pressured speech;
  2. Flight of ideas;
  3. Inflated self-esteem;
  4. Decreased need for sleep;
  5. Distractibility;
  6. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
  7. Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.[2]
These must be documented in appropriate medical records.[3]
Once it is established that the Claimant suffers at least three of the above Bipolar symptoms, the next step is to establish that these symptoms either cause extreme limitations in one or marked limitations in two of the following:
  1. Understand, remember, or apply information.
  2. Interact with others.
  3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
  4. Adapt or manage oneself.
The Social Security Administration considers “extreme” or “marked” limitations where the Claimant’s functioning in this area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis is seriously limited (marked) or completely incapable (extreme).[4]  The Administration uses all of the relevant medical and non-medical evidence in the Claimant’s case record to evaluate the level of mental disorder.
The most difficult part of any Disability Claim for Bipolar Disorder is to prove the level of extremity of these four areas.  If you are seeking a Disability for Bipolar Disorder, it will be likely that you will need a Medical Source Statement from a treating mental health provider (psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, etc.).  That mental health provider should specifically address the Claimant’s functional limitations (mild, moderate, marked or severe) in the above four categories.  The mental health provider should be familiar with how the Social Security Administration defines these categories (See Listing Definitions 12.00E1 – 12.00E4) and address his/her understanding of these definitions within his/her description of the Claimant’s limitations in these areas using specific examples from the Claimant’s experience when available.
Of course, the Medical Source Statement should be carefully drafted as to not over-state the Claimant’s limitations in comparison to the rest of the medical and non-medical evidence in the Claimant’s case record or it may be given less weight and viewed by the fact-finder as inconsistent with the rest of the evidence.
If you believe you have Bipolar Disorder and some (or all) of the above symptoms and limitations apply to you, you should seek the assistance of a qualified attorney that can assist you with your application for benefits.   A good attorney will help you navigate the application process and make sure you have the best representation before the Administrative Law Judge at your disability hearing.

 

For more information, please contact the attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, & Mrozik PLLC today.

 

By Tyler Rasmussen

 

[1] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml

[2] https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm#12_04

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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Can I receive Disability Benefits for Adult Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects how the brain processes information. The condition impairs social interaction, communication, and language skills. More extreme forms of Autism can cause repetitive behaviors, which is easily noticed by others. For example, self-injurious behaviors such as self-biting or head banging. Since there are variation of symptoms, the condition is now medically known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD covers a wide range of skills, symptoms, and level of impairment.

In children, parents may observe odd behaviors in their child’s social skills such as avoiding eye contact when communicating. Developmental mild stones help parents and physicians monitor a child’s social development. If there are major concerns after these screenings, the child is referred to a specialist for further testing. If Autism were diagnosed in teen or adult years, it would be a milder form than if diagnosed in a child. Most adults diagnosed with Autism are considered to be in the high functioning end of the spectrum. They can read, write, and communicate. Therefore, they are able to maintain a job and live alone.

Social Security does not have a specific listing for adults with autism. This can make is very difficult to prove you are disabled. The Social Security Administration does not have a set criterion for finding disablement of adult autism. Social Security determines if a person is eligible for benefits based on how severe the condition is as with most cases. It is important that you are seeing a specialist and documentation showing to the extent of your condition.

For more information, please contact the attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, & Mrozik PLLC today.

 

By Shana Knotts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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Why So Many Medical Records?

The importance of medical documentation cannot be stressed enough in Social Security Disability law. Without medical records, attorneys find themselves at an immediate disadvantage to efficiently do their job. When speaking with clients, we at HCM, presume they are giving us all the information that they know of regarding their disability. However, even the most reliable person would still be required to provide medical documents in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) regarding their alleged impairments.

When a person is experiencing a severely debilitating disorder, such as severe depression, it is likely that a listing argument can be made. More specifically, a Disability Evaluation Under Social Security-Listing of Impairments- argument. When these listings are met, it is an easy way for an ALJ to determine a person deserving of SSI, DIB, or Concurrent benefits under the Social Security structure. However, it is nearly impossible to obtain a favorable decision through a listing argument if no medical records are present supporting the alleged diagnosis. As mentioned before, severe depression can use listing 12.04 Depressive disorder. This particular listing requires that several medical characteristics be met. Without medical documents stating these necessary elements, a person can never be found disabled by an ALJ and be awarded any form of benefits via a listing argument.

Obtaining medical records can be a strenuous process, but as mentioned before, is of the utmost importance. Having doctor appointments, and getting check-ups, not only allows your disability attorney to do a better job, but also informs you of your medical condition. Ideally, your medical issues will alleviate themselves through treatment, and you will be able to return to work. If this doesn’t occur however, then having these necessary records allows for your attorney to advocate for you in the most zealous way possible.  Why so many medical records? So that both you can receive the most beneficial help available to you.

 

By Alec Rolain

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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Social Security Disability Benefits During Prison

Some of those who apply for Social Security Disability benefits, like any other group of people, have spent time in prison. When applying for disability benefits, this can affect potential backpay and can terminate your benefits if you go to prison while receiving them.

According to Social Security’s rules, disability benefits cannot be paid if a person who otherwise is eligible for benefits is incarcerated for 31 or more days because of a conviction. This includes those who are confined by court order to a mental health facility due to a crime. Incarceration includes confinement to a halfway house.

As a result, if a person served longer than thirty days due to criminal conviction during a time that he or she is arguing they are entitled to benefits there are precluded from being paid from that time if and when they are found disabled.

If you are incarcerated while receiving benefits, the same rules apply in that you are not eligible for payments during that time if you are imprisoned for longer than 30 days, and if that time period spans multiple months, you will not be eligible for benefits for any of those months affected. During that time auxiliary benefits to eligible children or your spouse may continue.

If you are imprisoned for a substantial length of time, a year or longer, you must file a new application for disability benefits, as you will be deemed to be no longer disabled due to a prison time of that length.

Criminal history can affect a Social Security applicant’s backpay and criminal activity can affect a Social Security recipient’s current and ongoing benefits. Those with a criminal history who are applying for Social Security Disability benefits are encouraged to speak with an attorney regarding any effect that history may have on their case.

Contact one of our attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, Mrozik, PLLC. at 855.513.4357 to find out more.

 

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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Working “Under the Table”

Working “Under the Table” and its Effect on Social Security Disability Applications

 

 

While applying for or receiving Social Security disability benefits, whether or not an applicant is working is crucial to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) analysis of the case. If an applicant is working above substantial gainful activity (SGA), a paid dollar amount per month that rises with inflation, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to successfully argue that an applicant is disabled, no matter what that conditions and struggles an applicant has. Often, the SSA gets information about the applicant’s work activity from employers who report wages and withhold taxes from standard paychecks. In that situation, it will become obvious fairly quickly if an applicant is working, as well as working above SGA.

Things become more difficult, however, if an applicant is doing “under the table” work, or work that is not reported to the SSA. This is more frequent in cash-based employment, or in more informal employment arrangements. SGA rules still apply in these situations, and it is imperative that an applicant is honest about any work, under the table or not, that he or she is performing while applying for disability. Through frank discussion with the applicant’s Social Security Disability attorney, they can discuss the ramifications of work on any given case. It is all the more important to be honest about under the table work, as it will reflect poorly on an applicant’s credibility in situations where evidence of unreported work is discovered in records or from third parties.

If an applicant is found to have been working above SGA after already being approved for benefits, for example, it could result in investigations by the SSA, along with forfeiture of the benefits already disbursed by the same. In these situations, honesty is absolutely the best policy.

Please contact one of our attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, Mrozik, PLLC. at 855.513.4357 to find out more.

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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Why was My Case Chosen to Undergo a Continuing Disability Review?

A Continuing Disability Review, or CDR, is a periodic review of an approved claim by the Social Security Administration. During the CDR, your medical records will be reviewed to determine if your conditions are have improved. If the review show your conditions have improved enough for you to return to gainful employment, your disability benefits will end immediately.

The timing of the review is based on the medical evidence in your case. There may be medical documentation of a future surgery. If Social Security believes that your condition can positively benefit from the surgery, then a review of your case would be required. How often the review takes place is dependent on your age in condition. Younger disabled claimants are often subject to a review earlier more frequently than older claimants. The review can takes place from six to eighteen months after the approval of disability benefits. However, in most cases the review period is three years. Claimants over age 55 are more likely to receive a review in seven years, as medical improvement in their conditions are not expected.

If Social Security has determined your condition(s) have improved, they must determine if the improvements are enough for gainful employment in the national economy. You will have the opportunity to appeal this decision within 60 days. A hearing officer would handle the CDR appeal. If the hearing officer find that your conditions have medically improved, you will only have ten days from the denial to ask for the continuation of benefits until your appeal is heard and decided by a judge.

 

Please contact one of our attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, Mrozik, PLLC. to find out more. Call us today at 855.513.4357.

 

By Shana Knotts

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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Strengthening a Social Security Disability Claim

What the client can do to strengthen the case? 

 

A social security disability case can be strengthened or weakened by the actions of the client.  The first thing the client needs to do is be completely honest with their attorney.  This can relate to severity of impairments and the ability to handle daily activities.  Your attorney needs to be completely informed and up to date on your case.  Keeping things from your attorney can be detrimental and possibly lead to an unfavorable decision.

The client also needs to be treating on a regular basis for all the severe impairments they are alleging to the Social Security Administration (SSA).  This means, treating with a psychiatrist/psychologist if you are alleging mental health issues as a severe impairment.  Frequent treatment seems to hold more weight with the SSA.  It is very important that you are not just seeing a family doctor one time per year and alleging multiple severe impairments that keep you from working.  You need to be treating with a specialist regarding your different impairments.  Being compliant with your treating source is very important also.  Make sure you are taking the medications and attending the treatment sessions as scheduled by your medical provider.

The client needs to make sure they are keeping contact with their attorney.  If your phone number or mailing address changes, your attorney needs to be kept up to date.  Keeping regular contact is important for the attorney to successfully develop the case and get the social security disability claim approved.  Further, if you are treating with new medical sources, you need to update the attorney with this information as well.  The attorney is not able to find out where the client is treating, without assistance.

 

For more information, please contact one of the attorneys at Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik.

 

By Beau Chinn

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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The Necessity of Medical Records for Social Security

In the Social Security Disability process medical support of a claim is paramount. Barring medical records documenting a claimant’s condition, there is no hope of success. Unfortunately, one cannot walk into a hearing before an administrative law judge claiming to suffer from maladies and expect success absent doctors’ notes. While it is common for state disability determination agencies to ask claimants to attend one-time examinations by doctors employed by the agency for that purpose, doctors who regularly treat the conditions of a given claimant can provide the most helpful information.

In the disability adjudication process, state agencies and Social Security Disability attorneys gather medical evidence from claimant’s health care providers. Unfortunately, these records gatherers are only able to gather the evidence they know exists. It is the responsibility of the claimant to inform necessary parties of this information. Further, the sooner records-gatherers are informed of the evidence, the sooner it can be submitted and evaluated by disability adjudicators.

In fact, it is more important than ever that disability claimants notify their attorneys of new medical evidence quickly, whether a new appointment, scan, or treating source. This is due to a new rule the Social Security Administration has put into effect requiring evidence be submitted within five business days of a disability hearing, absent good cause. Without delving into specifics (if claimants have questions about this, it is strongly advised they speak with counsel), the sooner a claimant advises attorneys of the records source, the sooner the records may be requested after a hearing has been scheduled. That way, both the attorneys presenting the case on behalf of the claimant as well as the administrative law judge hearing the case can better evaluate the claim.

Medical records, more than anything else, make or break a Social Security Disability claim. Providing documentation of ample treatment gives adjudicators a more complete picture of a claimant’s health, increasing the chances of success.

 

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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Can I Work Part Time While On Social Security?

In Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases we often hear the question, “Can I work part-time?”  Most individuals and families cannot “get by” waiting for an award decision from social security for several years without some monthly income.  We understand real individuals and real families and the hardships disabling impairments can create. Under Social Security rules, the phrase Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), is the guide post in assessing each situation.  Social Security generally considers those engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) as NOT eligible for disability benefits.  Substantial Gainful Activity basically means working and earning $1,170 per month or $1,950 a month if you are blind.  SGA is not just about the monetary amount though, other factors may impact your case, such as the number of hours you work or volunteer and the type of work or volunteering you do.

Once you are receiving benefits there are exceptions to SGA.  Under the SSDI benefits, the program that looks at your disabling impairments and your work history, you may qualify for a “trial work period.”  The trial work period allows SSDI beneficiaries to attempt to go back to work without penalty for a period of up to nine months in a five-year period without losing their monthly SSDI benefits.

Under SSI benefits, the program that looks at your disabling impairments and your financial need, there is also a “work incentive” programs that allow you to work and have your SSI benefits be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar you earn after counting the fwith irst $65.00.  An example would show a recipient receiving SSI, presumed to be $735, and working and earning $1,050.00 a month, less the $65 dollars, then divided by two.  This example looks like $1,050-$65=$985 then divided by 2 =$492.50.  This individual would receive: SSI benefits reduced by $492.50 , so $735-$492.50= $242.50.

Consult with an attorney for more information about social security disability and working while applying.

 

By Jonathan Breyfogle

Written by Jennifer Mrozik

Jennifer is a partner in the firm and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security disability law. She continues to lead efforts to find solutions for clients in the sometimes difficult Social Security claims process.

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