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What is an 'Organic Mental Disorder' for SSDI purposes?

This blog has previously discussed quite a few of the listings in the Social Security Administration's (SSA) "Blue Book." Readers will remember that these listings give the SSA guidelines for certain specific maladies that will qualify a New Jersey applicant as disabled for the purposes of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. As we have pointed out before, psychological conditions that cause one to be unable to work may be harder to prove than physical ones, simply because there are fewer specific medical tests that show the exact condition, and many mental condition diagnoses depend upon subjective evaluation by medical professionals.

One interesting category of mental disorders found in the Blue Book is that of "Organic Mental Disorders." This category includes conditions of the brain that are caused by some disease or injury, rather than what are termed "psychological illnesses" such as schizophrenia or depression. These organic disorders may be due to brain trauma from a severe head injury, or perhaps a lack of oxygen due to a cessation of breathing or other impediment to getting oxygenated blood to the brain. An organic brain disorder might also be caused by a known brain disease such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, or by an infection that causes a swelling in brain.

So what does the SSA look for to determine if a person has a mental illness disability caused by an organic disorder for the purposes of SSDI benefits? Basically, they will look for a change in the person's mental life, whether it is memory loss, disorientation of time or place, hallucinations or loss of intellectual capacity to the tune of 15 or so IQ points. It could also be shown by a change in an individual's personality or moods and emotions, such as sudden fits of temper or crying, or a problem with impulse control. As with all SSDI cases, the difficulties listed above will need to lead to significant impairment of a person's daily activity or ability to maintain social functioning.

As we have touched on numerous times, applying for SSDI for a mental illness is not the easiest case for people to make. Those who find themselves in need of these entitlements may wish to consider consulting an experienced New Jersey disability attorney for help in applying for benefits.

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