Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a psychotic mental disorder that can be significantly impairing. If you are being treated for bipolar disorder, but are still so greatly affected by the symptoms that you cannot work, then you might be entitled to Social Security disability benefits.

There are strict requirements and an in-depth application process you will need to adhere to in order to establish benefits, though. To learn about the steps, evidence, and requirements necessary for getting Social Security disability for a bipolar disorder in Raleigh, call Lunn & Forro, PLLC today: 888-966-6566.

Does the SSA consider bipolar disorder to be valid disability?

Yes, the Social Security Administration (SSA) includes affective disorders such as bipolar disorder in its Listing of Impairments under Section 12.04.

It is important to note that being on this list does not mean you automatically qualify for disability benefits. To qualify, you must prove that your symptoms are severe and meet detailed specifications on the listing.

The SSA requires that your condition meet one of the two following sets of requirements for it to deem you disabled:

Evaluation Method #1: As someone living with bipolar disorder, one way to meet the definition of disabled is to show that you have medically documented persistence of one of the following:

  • “depressive syndrome characterized by at least four symptoms such as loss of interest in most activities, change in weight, sleep disturbance, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, feeling of worthlessness, hallucinations, and paranoia;”
  • “manic syndrome characterized by at least three symptoms such as hyperactivity; pressure of speech, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, easy distractibility, delusions, and involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences which are not recognized;” or
  • “bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes (and currently characterized by either or both syndromes.”

Your medical records must also show that you have at least two of the following:

  • “Marked restriction of activities of daily living
  • Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning
  • Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace;
  • Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration”

Evaluation Method #2: Alternatively, you can meet the medical requirements for disability if you have a medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder, which has lasted at least two years and has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities. Despite adhering to recommended treatment, you must have at least one of the following:

  • “Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;
  • A residual disease process that has resulted in such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment would be predicted to cause the individual to decompensate; or
  • You have been unable to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement for a year or longer, and doctors think you will need to continue the arrangements.”

What other requirements to I need to meet to obtain disability benefits?

There are several basic criteria, aside from the ones above, that you need to meet for the SSA to deem you disabled and grant you benefits:

  • Your condition must be expected to last a year or longer or result in death.
  • Your disorder must severely impair your ability to work. The SSA will only approve you if you cannot work at your old job and you cannot adjust to new work.

You also must meet certain financial or work history requirements, depending on the type of disability benefit for which you are applying. Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits require that you have a sufficient work history at a job where you paid Social Security taxes. You will need a certain number of work credits to qualify for benefits, the exact number of which depends on your age.

If you have not worked long or recently enough to qualify for SSDI, you can instead apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a different benefit for disabled persons with limited income and resources. With SSI, work history is unimportant, but your income and assets must fall below designated thresholds to qualify.

What kind of evidence do I need to meet the criteria for benefits?

When you apply for benefits, you will need to submit adequate medical evidence that proves the severity of your condition to win your claim. This will include your psychiatric record along with any documentation of manic or depressive episodes, in-patient treatment at a mental health facility, and records of the treatments you have underwent.

You can also help substantiate your application with non-medical evidence, such as input from your employers, family members, and case workers about how your disorder has affected your ability to work.

Medical, psychiatric, and supportive testimonies are the bedrock of a disability claim. It is essential to ensure your records sufficiently meet the SSA’s requirements or the Administration will deny your application for benefits.

It is a good idea to contact a lawyer before submitting your claim. Our attorneys know what evidence the SSA is looking for in order to approve a claimant for benefits.

What do I do if the SSA has denied my disability claim?

It is not uncommon for the SSA to deny claims, particularly for mental disorders which are more challenging to prove with medical documentation. Fortunately, you have the right to appeal the decision, so long as you act within 60 days of receiving your letter of denial.

Our disability lawyers can help. At Lunn & Forro, PLLC, we have dedicated our practice to helping those living with disabilities in Raleigh obtain the benefits they need. We have experience handling disability claims at every level and we will fight to win you what you deserve.

For questions about qualifying for disability benefits or for help with an appeal, call our office today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation: 888-966-6566.