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Assessing severity of mental disability for SSD benefits

Last week, we discussed the potential for Traumatic Brain Injuries to cause a disability that might qualify a person for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. While such injuries may cause physical impairment in the brain, there are other, sometimes less obvious conditions that can be just as disabling. Such conditions, like clinical depression, or anxiety disorders, are assessed for the severity of their effects on an applicant's ability to perform various tasks.

The Social Security Administration's (SSA) sets out the basics of how it will evaluate the severity of a mental illness in Section 12 of its Listing of Impairments for adults. The effect of a condition on a person's daily activities, his or her social functioning, or concentration are all factors, as are any episodes that include an increase in symptoms that impact those areas of a person's life.

The SSA uses the term "functional limitations" when assessing the effects of mental conditions on a person's life. The degree of limitation that the SSA looks for is often described as "marked," which is generally defined by the agency as being more than moderate, but less than severe. When one or more of the above described categories of an applicant's life is seriously affected by a mental condition, the SSA will use these definitions to determine the person's eligibility for benefits.

Depression and anxiety disorders are becoming increasingly diagnosed in New Jersey and around the country, and the effects can be devastating on people's lives. Living with panic attacks that can occur at any time, or a sense of hopelessness that pervades a person's existence isn't easy, and can certainly put serious limitations on a person's ability to function in everyday situations. Anyone who has questions about whether they may qualify for SSDI benefits may wish to consider consulting an experienced disability attorney.

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