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Social Security Disability Benefits For Bipolar Disorder

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Am I eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits (SSD/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?

For your Social Security disability claim, receiving a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is just the start. The main focus will be on the symptoms you experience from bipolar disorder and how those symptoms affect your ability to do physical and mental work, eight (8) hours per day, five(5) days per week.

Can you go on disability for bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes unusual changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. If you have this disorder, you experience periods of extremely elated and energized behavior (manic episodes) alternating with extremely sad or worn-out periods (depressive episodes). Because of this, bipolar disorder is also called manic-depressive illness.

There are four main categories of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar I disorder involves severe or week-long manic episodes, cycling with depressive episodes that last at least two weeks. There may also be episodes of mixed features – that is, having both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time.

Bipolar II disorder also has a cyclic pattern, but without the full-blown severity.

Cyclothymic disorder, also known ascyclothymia, has alternating patterns of depressive symptoms and less-severe manic symptoms (hypomania), lasting for two years or more.

Other forms of bipolar disorder also exist outside of those three categories.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines whether bipolar disorder has disabled you, using a 5-stepprocess:

Step 1. Are you working?

To start with, the SSA considers your work activity. If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA),you will not be found disabled.

Each year, there is a minimum amount of earnings that qualifies work as SGA. For 2018 it is $1,180 per month if you are not blind and $1,970 per month if you are blind. If you are working, and your earnings average more than the SGA limit, then you will not be found disabled. But if you are not working, or if your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your bipolar disorder is evaluated.

Step 2. Is your medical condition “severe”?

For the SSA, your medical condition disables you if it significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities such as sitting; standing; walking; lifting; carrying; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; making simple work-related decisions; responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work stress; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.

To be found disabled, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and has lasted or is expected last one (1) year or end in death. If your medical condition is not that severe, you will not be found to meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits.If your condition is that severe, your case goes to Step 3 of the evaluation.

Step 3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a Listing?

There is an SSA-maintained list of medical criteria, and if your medical impairment matches them, it will be considered so severe that you will be found disabled. The Adult Listing for bipolar disorder can be found here.

If you do not have an impairment that meets or equals one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA moves on to see what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments. This is your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).

In determining your RFC, the SSA conducts a function-by-function assessment of your maximum ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities on a regular and continuing basis (8 hours a day, for 5 days a week) despite the limitations resulting from your medically determinable impairments.

Step 4. Can you do any of the jobs you have performed in the past fifteen (15) years?

Next, the SSA decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to work full-time at jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years. If SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found not disabled.

To be PRW, the work must have been substantial gainful activity (SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough to learn the job. If the SSA decides you cannot perform your past relevant work, or if you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, SSA goes on to Step 5.

Still here at Step 4, you will need to present evidence – in legal terms, you have the burden of proof. Two of the strongest types of evidence at this stage are medical records and the opinions of the doctors who are treating you for the conditions that are affecting your ability to work.

In terms of medical evidence, the strongest proof is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors. Meanwhile, the strongest opinions are opinions that are offered by doctors who specialize in the condition that is keeping you from working, and which are supported by objective medical evidence.

To support a disability claim based on bipolar disorder, these are some types of objective medical evidence:

  • Documentation of medical history
  • Records of mental status examination or psychological testing
  • Records of hospitalizations and treatment
  • Laboratory findings
  • Medical documentation showing bipolar disorder with three or more symptoms
  • Medical documentation of limited mental functioning
  • Medical documentation of the persistence of the disorder.

Doctors and professionals who specialize in treating bipolar disorder include:

  • Psychiatrists – licensed medical doctors who can both prescribe medication and offer psychotherapy
  • Psychologists – doctors whose main focus is psychotherapy or talk therapy
  • Social workers, therapists, and counselors – non-doctor but trained professionals who provide talk therapy.

You will need to consult with a specialist for your bipolar disorder, and not just your family doctor or a primary care doctor. If you don’t see a specialist, the SSA may interpret this as meaning that your condition is not that serious. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of treatment (even if you don’t have health insurance).

Step 5. Can you do any other type of work?

At this step, the SSA has the burden of proof. If you cannot do your past relevant work, they will have to see if you would be able to do other work. The assess your medical condition, your age,education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you can do other work, the SSA will determine you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.

If you are over 50, there are special rules that may apply to your claim that can result in a finding of disability even if there is some other work you could perform on a full-time basis. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be familiar with these rules and can ensure that they are considered in the evaluation of your case.

Bipolar disorder is often dismissed by people as simple mood swings. But if you have this condition, you know how difficult it is and how seriously it can affect your work and your life in general.

Contact Gillette Law Group

Do not be discouraged from applying for disability benefits. Whether this is your initial claim or you are appealing a denied application, you may have a chance to succeed. Talk to us at Gillette Law Group, as we have effectively helped numerous disability applicants like you. We have in-depth training and years-long experience in this field, which we can use to your advantage.

Please do not hesitate to contact us, as your consultation with us is free. Call us today at (855) 873-2604.

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