The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those who are bipolar to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your bipolar disorder isn’t severe enough to qualify,
(2) You can function at a sufficient and consistent level to hold a basic, unskilled job,
(3) Your bipolar disorder is under control with medication,
(4) You wouldn’t be disabled if you took your medication and cooperated with treatment,
(5) Your medical condition doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(6) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(7) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of bipolar disorder are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with bipolar disorder. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depressive illness. It is an organic brain disorder that causes a wide range of shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. Mood can fluctuate between the extremes of depression and mania. Advanced brain imaging shows that brain tissue changes are more prominent in the areas affecting face recognition, motor coordination and memory.
People who are bipolar have intense mood states. An extremely depressed state is called a depressive episode. The symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, despair and an inability to see even the possibility for happiness.
An overexcited state is called a manic episode and can include feelings of euphoria with grossly inappropriate energy levels. People in a manic state will take on projects beyond their ability because their judgment is impaired. Those in a manic state can have racing thoughts, insomnia and impulsive behavior.
Sometimes the person can have a mixed state that includes symptoms of mania and depression. This can result in irritable behavior and volatility.
Bipolar disorder is included in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing for your bipolar disorder to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records and look for the followings:
Additionally, you must have had any three of the follow symptoms of mania:
Additionally, you must have had any three of the follow symptoms of depression:
Thirdly, your bipolar disorder must have caused any two of these four problems:
What if you can’t meet any of the three requirements? You can get benefits if your diagnosed bipolar disorder has lasted at least two years and has improved somewhat with medical support, but you aren’t expected to work because your condition limits your ability to do even basic work activities and you have one of the following:
It can be difficult to get the medical proof you need. It isn’t uncommon for those with bipolar disorder to get treatment at mental health clinics. Mental health clinics often refuse to release your clinical notes that are used by SSA to evaluate the severity of your condition. They’ll offer instead a letter summarizing what they think SSA wants to know. That is not helpful.
Others with bipolar disorder will get treatment at the VA. While VA records do have some detail about your symptoms, VA doctors refuse to fill out any RFC forms.
Many times your medical records don’t have the necessary detail to establish that your bipolar disorder is disabling enough to meet or equal a listing.
Your medical records should document the entire history of your bipolar disorder, severe or violent manic episodes, treatment and your response to treatment, your compliance with treatment and the side effects of medication.
SSA is often forced to have you undergo, at their expense, a consultative mental status examination. This is a one-time short examination by a consultant who doesn’t know you and who won’t take the time to develop the details about how your bipolar disorder impacts your ability to function on a daily basis.
If possible, have your family or friends provide your treating provider and any consultative examiner with detailed information about what you can and can’t do. Unfortunately, because of these medical proof problems, many claims are denied at a Listing level.
Don’t worry. SSA then will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
If your bipolar disorder doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
SSA or, ultimately the Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your bipolar disorder.
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant with bipolar disorder still can work because there isn’t a significant interference with your ability to do normal activity. For example, if you are bipolar but can still shower, get dressed, make meals, go grocery shopping and interact with the public, you probably are not eligible for benefits. There must be a marked interference with your ability to function.
The more limited you are in your ability to function on a daily basis the lower your RFC will be and the more likely that you can’t return to work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or mental health providers about the existence of mental RFC forms and the importance of properly completed RFC forms that will explain the severity of your symptoms and impact on:
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a mental RFC forms. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form, or because it wasn’t signed by the supervising physician. Those are just some of the reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your mental RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
Bipolar disorder can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Bipolar disorder can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]