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How does evaluation of mental and physical disability differ?

As our New Jersey readers may know, this blog has previously discussed several of the listings for mental and physical disabilities that are found in the Social Security Administration's (SSA) "blue book." We have also touched on the "sequential evaluation process" that the SSA uses to determine if a person is disabled for the purposes of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In this post we will take a brief look at one of the differences in the process between mental and physical impairments.

To refresh, the sequential evaluation process consists of several steps, each of which is meant to be a guide to one part of determining disability. Step 2 is generally where the SSA attempts to analyze whether an impairment exists and whether it's severe enough to continue with the process. The condition must be severe enough to interfere with basic work activities and meet the one-year duration requirement. For physical impairments, this step doesn't usually involve the impairments listing in the book.

For mental impairments, however, the SSA generally uses the criteria in paragraph A of the appropriate individual listing in section 12 of the blue book. Because of the different level of difficulty in determining the existence of mental impairments, this paragraph in each subsection sets out criteria for deciding that a psychological condition exists in the first place.

Once that is done, the SSA will move on to step 3, which is determining if the condition meets one of the pre-selected conditions in the blue book. For mental illness disability these criteria will be found in paragraph B of each subsection, and generally have to do with how the condition affects the individual's capacity to complete certain tasks. As has been pointed out in the past, receiving disability for psychological conditions can be complex, so those who are attempting it may wish to speak with a New Jersey disability attorney.

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