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Indianapolis, Lafayette & Franklin Social Security Disability Blog

Applying for SSD benefits with a mental or psychiatric disability

Social Security Disability benefits can be a critical lifeline for people in Indiana who are no longer able to work due to their disabilities. At the same time, many people are concerned about how they can prove their claim for benefits if their disability involves a mental or psychological condition. People who initially apply for SSD benefits are often denied at first, and the barriers for approval can seem particularly difficult for people with less physically apparent disabilities. However, SSD cases are approved on the basis of medical records, including mental health professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists and even family physicians.

These medical records should include information about how a Social Security Disability applicant deals with everyday activities as this can also reflect upon the ability to work. Mental impairments in an SSD benefits claim could include cognitive issues like memory loss or developmental disability, anxiety disorders or affective problems like depression or bipolar disorder. The disability examiner will be looking for evidence of an inability to follow instructions, learn, concentrate or handle social situations. In particular, the disability examiner will be looking for evidence of decompensation, which is when a person no longer functions adequately due to psychiatric illness, stress, fatigue or other issues.

Those who decide on disability applications

When an Indiana resident files for Social Security disability benefits, they may wonder who is responsible for making the decision about their application. The person responsible for determining whether a claim will be approved varies depending on the level of the process involved. People who first apply for benefits enter at the initial disability claim level. If the initial claim is denied, the applicant can then move on to a reconsideration appeal and a hearing before an administrative law judge. After that level, one can still appeal to the Appeal Council and then to a federal district court.

At the level of an initial claim and the reconsideration appeal, a decision about Social Security benefits would be made by a team. The case is assigned to a disability examiner who gathers medical evidence and makes a determination. While some cases are decided by the examiner alone, others involve consultations with staff medical doctors and psychologists. Unit managers may also get involved in urging staff to approve fewer applications.

Listing multiple conditions helps when seeking benefits

When filing a disability application, it is essential to establish an inability to do any kind of work. This includes an applicant's current job as well as any former job that he or she held. In most cases, Indiana residents will win a disability case by showing that they have multiple conditions. While it is possible to win benefits by proving a singular condition exists, the goal is to stack the odds in an applicant's favor by any legal means available.

Therefore, it is a good idea to list any condition that a person thinks he or she is experiencing. It makes no difference whether it is physical or mental in nature. In some cases, a person is approved for benefits because of a secondary condition or one that he or she didn't necessarily think would meet the criteria for approval.

Reconsideration is the first step in an SSDI appeal

An initial claim for social security disability benefits is usually denied in Indiana. Accompanying the denial will be a letter specifying the reason(s) for the denial. For those who disagree with the decision, there is an appeal procedure. Social Security must receive a written request within 60 days of the claimant's receipt of the letter or the denial will stand.

This first level of appeal, called reconsideration is almost identical to the initial review. At reconsideration, a different disability examiner will process the claim, but most often the same medical records will be reexamined. The applicant can, however, submit supplemental information if new treatment or diagnosis has occurred since the initial application was submitted. Statistically, denials are higher at reconsideration than at the initial application phase.

Avoid these mistakes when applying for SSDI benefits

If you have a serious health condition that makes you unable to work, you may want to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance. SSDI benefits can give you the financial support you need without an occupation. If you are looking to apply for these benefits, it is important to know a few things before submitting your application.

One of the most crucial pieces of information to know is that you must fill out the application as carefully and accurately as possible. A minor mistake may hurt your chances of getting SSDI when you need it. These are some common SSDI application errors to avoid.

How to react after a benefit application is denied

Many Social Security Disability claims filed by Indiana residents are denied at the initial application level. However, this doesn't mean that an applicant is not entitled to benefits. An individual will need to submit an appeal within 60 days of the denial notice being received. An additional five days may also be available to account for mailing the appeal paperwork.

In most cases, it takes only a matter of minutes to fill out appeal paperwork and send it to the correct Social Security office. People can ask an attorney to file an appeal on their behalf. This may be especially beneficial for those who likely won't do it on their own because of anxiety or a habit to procrastinate. In most cases, the denial letter itself won't specify a reason as to why the application was rejected. Therefore, it may not be worth asking why it was denied prior to sending in an appeal.

Valid excuses for missing Social Security appeals deadline

After a denial of a Social Security Disability claim, the app has a specified period of time during which to file an appeal. The deadline for appealing an SSD ruling is 60 days from the day of denial, but 5 more days are added to account for mailing time. The 65-day deadline applies to requests for the review of a decision, requests for disability hearings and reconsideration appeals.

The Social Security Administration generally takes the position that claimants have no excuse for missing appeals filing deadlines, given that the period to file is longer than might be expected. There are, though, circumstances where a claimant is found to have a valid excuse for doing so. If a person was not notified of the denial, he or she may be allowed to file late. A mental or physical condition that prevented or hindered the ability to appeal on time may also be a valid excuse.

What goes into a disability benefit decision

Indiana residents who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance are likely to have their initial applications denied. Only 35 percent of initial applications are accepted, which means many will need to go through the appeal process. However, a reconsideration appeal is also likely to be denied because it is examined at the same office. While it is reviewed by a different person, he or she is typically looking at the same evidence.

That evidence must be reviewed using the same standard applied during the initial examination. Of course, there is still a chance that an application will be approved at the reconsideration level as about 10-15 percent of these appeals are successful. For most, this is simply another step toward getting a hearing before a judge. The hearing stage is where most applications are approved.

How functional limitations influence a disability case

Indiana residents who apply for disability benefits may not hear the term functional limitation as their cases progress. However, it is an important one to understand. It simply refers to a physical or mental condition that prevents a person from being able to work or otherwise function. For instance, someone could have a hard time standing for a long period of time or difficulty remembering what he or she has been told.

A person may receive benefits based on limitations that were caused by a head injury or anxiety. Depression or a bipolar disorder could also lead to limitations as to how a person functions on a daily basis. During the evaluation process, an examiner may talk to the applicant's friend or neighbor about his or her limitations and how they manifest themselves on a daily basis.

A guide to applying for SSDI benefits

Social Security disability insurance supports millions of Americans with disabilities. In fact, upwards of 11 million Americans receive SSDI benefits because they cannot work. You may want to apply for these benefits, but it can be intimidating, especially when you are dealing with income loss, stress and health concerns. 

However, you should not give up. It may seem scary at first, but you may be able to secure the money you need to manage your life with a severe impairment or illness. Keep the following tips in mind when you are applying for SSDI benefits

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