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Social Security Disability Benefits For Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Can I apply for Social Security Disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?

If you have received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, this can be the start of your Social Security disability claim. However, expect that the main focus in your claim will be on the symptoms you experience from borderline personality disorder and how those symptoms affect your ability to engage in physical and mental work-related activities eight (8) hours per day, five (5) days per week.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). This serious mental illness shows in a long-term pattern of unstable emotions, unstable sense of self, and notably unstable relationships.

Is borderline personality disorder considered a disability?

Historically, the term “borderline” referred to patients who were “in between” multiple diagnoses, typically psychosis and neurosis. However, medical science has since gained a deeper understanding of this condition. Some of its key symptoms are impulsive actions and relationship problems – specifically: intense bouts of anger, aggression, self-injury, substance abuse, distorted thoughts or sense of self, and stormy social attachments.

Because BPD is a serious illness, it adversely affects one’s daily life and requires extensive mental health care. However, many individuals who undergo treatment eventually improve and lead productive lives.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step process to decide if you are disabled by BPD.

Step 1. Are you working?

The first thing that the SSA considers is your work activity. If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), you will not be found disabled. The amount you must earn to be working at SGA changes each year. 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. If you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your BPD and any other physical or mental conditions are considered.

Step 2. Is your medical condition “severe”?

Being disabled primarily means that your medical condition 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.

For the SSA to find you 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, the SSA goes to Step 3.

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

A “listing” refers to an item on the SSA’s list of medical criteria. These criteria that are considered to be so severe that you will be found disabled if your medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them. The Adult Listing for borderline personality disorder can be found here.

If your impairment does not meet or equal one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA determines what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments – your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) – and will proceed to Step 4.

RFC is 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 and restrictions resulting from your medically determinable impairments. In short, it is an evaluation of your capacity for full-time work.

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

The SSA will now see 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 the SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found as 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 you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, the SSA goes on to Step 5.

Here at Step 4, you have the “burden of proof” or the obligation to show evidence. 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. The strongest medical evidence is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors. 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.

Some types of objective medical evidence that can support a claim for disability based upon BPD include:

  • Medical history
  • Records of any mental status examination
  • Records of psychological testing
  • Records of hospitalizations and treatment

Doctors who specialize in treating BPD include:

  • Psychiatrists – These mental health doctors can both prescribe medication and offer therapy.
  • Psychologists – They focus on mental health therapies such as psychotherapy or talk therapy.
  • Social workers, therapists, and counselors – Not doctors but trained professionals who provide therapy.

Bear in mind that if you are only treating with your family doctor or primary care doctor for your BPD, the SSA may interpret this as meaning that your condition is not that serious (otherwise you would be treating with a specialist). 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?

The SSA has the burden of proof at this step. If you cannot do your past relevant work, the SSA looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates 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 that you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.

After age 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.

Is borderline personality disorder considered a disability?

It can be an incredible struggle to maintain your work and life when you have borderline personality disorder. In addition, the treatment and management of this illness can take a toll on your finances. For these reasons, you may truly need assistance.

Contact Gillette Law Group

You can successfully claim disability benefits with our help at the Gillette Law Group. For many years, we have served numerous disability applicants like you, enabling them to pursue effective claims, receive their benefits, and experience a form of relief from their struggles.

Our legal service can work for you, too. Consult with us for free by calling (855) 873-2604 today.


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