Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Social Security Disability for Mental Illness
Social Security Disability claims for mental illness are handled quite differently than SSD or SSI claims for physical impairments.
Social Security Disability still follows the five step process to determine if someone with a mental illness is disabled;
however, the main difference is that in a SSDI claim for a mental condition with no physical impairments the grid rules are
not really used. In a claim for a mental disability Social Security will still first determine if you are working. If SSA
determines you are working at substantial gainful activity level then you will be found not disabled at this step. If it is
found that you are not working at SGA you then move to the next. At the second step, SSA will determine determine if your
mental impairment is severe. If they find that your impairment is not severe they will find should not disabled. If they find
that your impairment is severe you will then move to step three of the process. At step three, they will then check to see
if you meet or equal a listed impairment. If you meet or equal a listed impairment you will be found disabled. If you do not
meet or equal a listed impairment you move to step four of the process. At step four, SSA will determine if you can do your
past relevant work. If SSA determines that you can perform your past relevant work they will find your not disabled. If SSA
determines that you cannot perform your past work you move to step five of the process. At the last step, Social Security
will determine whether or not there is any other work you can do. This is a brief explanation of the five step process and
I will now explain how a mental condition is handled differently than a physical condition at steps four and five of the process.
To make a determination at steps four and five Social Security makes a determination of what your residual functional capacity is.
This is also called your RFC and ability to do work related activities. In a purely mental claim for disability there is no
physical limitations so Social Security will look at your mental limitations and decide if given these mental limitations
you would be able to perform your past work and then if you cannot perform this past work if there is any other work you could
perform given your psychiatric limitations. In a claim for a physical disability Social Security uses the grid rules directly
or as a framework to determine if you are disabled. The grid rules are set up to evaluate physical impairments and direct
a finding of disabled or not disabled based on your age, education, past work experience, and the level of physical work you
are able to do such as less than sedentary, sedentary, light, medium. Since mental illness does not necessarily affect one's
physical ability to do things Social Security must determine if your mental limitations would prevent your past work and any
other work. So in these cases limitations in your ability to concentrate, remember things, deal with people, deal with stress
and other such limitations are used to compare to the requirements of your past work and other work. This is a very brief
discussion of how a Social Security disability claim for mental illness is handled by Social Security. I strongly advise you
to read the relevant parts of my website that deal with claims for psychiatric conditions to fully understand how this type
of case is handled by Social Security.
8:48 pm edt
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Social Security Disability Good News and Bad
The good news is that the average wait time from requesting a hearing until a decision has continued to go down. In March
the average wait time was 437 days. In April the average wait time at the hearing stage was 428 days. The bad news is that
it appears there is an increase in the number of people filing a request for hearing. So time will tell if the average wait
time from requesting a hearing until you receive one, and then get a decision will continue to decrease, hold steady, or increase.
The increase in the number of claims can probably be attributed to the continued economic difficulties in this country. It
also looks like even though there has been a decrease in the wait times at the hearing level the same cannot be said at application
and reconsideration stages of the process. Again, the culprit looks to be the economy. In fact 16 states had unemployment
rates that were higher than 10% as of March 2010. Social Security appears to have a plan to deal with the increase in the
number of Social Security Disability and SSI applications. Social Security has a number of attorneys that can issue fully
favorable decisions before a hearing, and because reviews of these decisions have shown these lawyers are finding people disabled
and making good decisions, there is a plan to allow these attorneys to make even more favorable decisions for the year 2010.
It should also be noted that 226 new ALJ's are expected to be hired this year and this will include other employees to support
these new ALJ's. The addition of the new National Hearing Centers also appear to continue to be a part of the plan to reduce
backlogs across the country at the hearing stage. These are some of the interesting things learned at the latest NOSSCR conference.
Much of this information comes from the ODAR Deputy Commissioner Glenn Sklar in his speech to the members of this organization.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the future, at least we know a plan is in place and steps are being
taken to address the increase in the number of SSD and SSI cases and SSA is trying to reduce the backlog.
9:45 pm edt
Saturday, June 12, 2010
New Open Government Plan Released By Social Security
Social Security recently announced a new open government plan that will make finding information about Social Security
Disability easier and more transparent to the general public and includes increased efforts to make this information
available to Spanish speaking claimants. As part of this initiative is more tools and information on the Social
Security Administration website. "The plan, reflects the agency’s commitment to increase transparency,
expand opportunities for citizen participation and collaboration, and make open government sustainable at Social Security.
Three flagship initiatives are highlighted in the plan -- the Spanish-Language Retirement Estimator, On-line Service Enhancement,
and an On-line Life-Expectancy Calculator. These initiatives support the agency’s mission, goals, and objectives,
as well as showcase the value of open government principles." Commissioner Astrue states “These initiatives
signify Social Security’s ongoing commitment to transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration as we improve
the services we provide to the public.” I am glad to see the Social Security Administration is making more information
available to the thousands of people looking for information on Social Security Disability and other Social Security related
matters. It is also good to see more information being made available to the Spanish speaking claimants for which it
is much more difficult for them to find information on SSD and SSI benefits. Even though Social Security has a long
way to go in improving wait times for decisions they have also made big strides over the last couple of years in this area
as well. The Social Security Administration has a very difficult job in dealing with the massive Social Security Disability
case load, but over the last few years I must say I have seen a strong effort being made to improve the way cases are handled
and improve their public image. Social Security is by no means perfect, but I do believe they are one of the best, if
not the best run government agencies we have.
11:37 pm edt