Mental Health Problems And Social Security Disability

Many people suffer from a wide array of Mental Health impairments that could create an inability to maintain employment.  This blog will focus on how the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines if you are disabled due to a mental health impairment.

At any level, the SSA must complete a mental residual functional capacity (RFC) based upon the degree of limitation of functioning you might have in various areas.  All areas are rated on a 5 point scale: no limits, mild limits, moderate limits, marked limits, and extreme limits.  The objective of the mental RFC is to produce an assessment where the decision maker can determine whether you can perform skilled, semiskilled, unskilled, or no work at all.  The most important aspect of a mental RFC is usually determining whether someone with a mental impairment is still capable of performing unskilled work.  A claimant must be incapable of performing any work to be disabled for mental impairment reasons alone, inability to perform past work is not as relevant.

The SSA evaluates one’s ability to understand, remember, and apply information.  This refers to abilities to learn, recall, and use information to perform work activities.  Examples include understanding and learning instructions, following 1 to 2 step tasks, using judgement to make work-related decision among others.

The SSA also evaluates one’s ability to interact with others.  This refers to how one relates to supervisors, coworkers, and the public.  Examples include cooperating with others, handling criticism, understand social cues among others.

The SSA also evaluates one’s ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.  This area refers to the ability to focus attention on work activities and stay on task at a sustained rate.  Examples include working at an appropriate and consistent pace, completing tasks in a timely manner, ignoring or avoiding distractions while working among others.

The SSA finally evaluates one’s ability to adapt or manage oneself.  This refers to abilities to regulate emotions, control behavior, and maintain well-being in a work setting.  Examples include responding to demands, managing psychologically based symptoms, maintain personal hygiene and attire appropriate to the work setting among others.

No matter the mental impairment, if it causes some work-related limitations then the SSA must use these areas to evaluate how much of a functional limitation the impairment causes.  Many people who apply for Social Security due to mental health problems will be turned down.  It is important to have an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney to help guide you through the process, make sure all relevant and important information is submitted, and provide logical arguments in support of you being found Disabled.



Matthew C. Garner

What Are The Qualifications For Being Eligible For social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) decides who is eligible for disability payments under rules established in the Social Security Act by the US Congress.  This blog will cover two main programs that administer disability payments: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  When you apply for Disability the SSA makes a determination as to whether you are eligible for either program and, in many cases, both programs.

SSDI provides payments to workers who have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund through Social Security tax on their earnings.  You must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify.  The law requires you to earn a certain number or work credits in a specific time being you are eligible for benefits.  You can earn up to 4 credits in a year and the amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels rise.  In 2019, you must earn $1,360 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit and $5,440 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.  Most people need at least 20 credits earned over ten years, ending with the year they become disabled.  However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.  Essentially you count backwards from the year you alleged you became disabled in order to see if you’re eligible.  Credits earned from many years in the past ultimately expire which can lead to situations where people who haven’t worked for many years before becoming disabled are not eligible.  The date in which you lose your eligibility is called the date last insured or DLI.  You can find out how many credits you have by contacting your local SSA office or searching on its website.

The SSI program provides payments to an adult or child who is disabled and has limited income and resources.  If your income and resources are too high, then you will not be eligible for SSI benefits no matter how Disabled you might be.  To qualify for SSI, your monthly income cannot exceed something called the federal benefit rate (FBR).  The FBR for a married couple is approximately 33% more than for an individual.  The FBR is set my law and increases annually as dictated by cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).  In general, in 2019, the eligibility limit is $771 per month for an individual and $1,157 per month for a couple.  The SSA does not count the following income and benefits when calculating your income level: $20 per month of most income; $65 per month of wages and one-half of wages over $65; food stamps; and some types of home energy/housing assistance.

In addition to income limits, your resources must also not exceed certain limits.  A resource is cash or another asset that can be converted to cash and used for support.  The resource limits are set by law and are $2000/single person and $3000/married couple.  The SSA will exclude certain resources with some of the more common exclusions being homes, wedding rings, necessary health aids like a motorized scooter, one automobile, various types of schooling assistance, life insurance up to $1500, and burial plots up to $1500.

This is a general guide as to whether you qualify for Social Security Disability under the 2 main programs.  There are other lesser known programs as well as other circumstances in which you may be eligible.  You can contact an attorney for more specific guidance or the SSA directly.



Matthew C. Garner