Bipolar Disorder And Social Security Disability: Proving A Legitimate Case Is Possible

Posted on: 11 February 2015

Are people with bipolar disorder just "gaming" the system to collect Social Security disability benefits? Recent political focus on fraudulent Social Security claims has seen one prominent newscaster taking to the airways to publicly denounce everyone from disability recipients to pharmaceutical companies for "making up" the disorder. Fortunately, not everyone thinks the same. However, how do you prove to Social Security that your claim is legitimate?

Bipolar Disorder Is Recognized As A Disabling Condition.

It's estimated that nearly 6 million people in the United States suffer from bipolar disorder. The condition can start even in early childhood, and men and women are equally affected. In addition, the disorder is known to run in families, which means that you are more likely to suffer from it if other family members do also.

Social Security's disability guidebook evaluates bipolar disorder under Mental Disorders Code 12.04, and that section lists the various symptoms of both the manic and depressive aspects of the disorder. It isn't enough, however, just to have the diagnosis in order to be approved.

Persistence Of Symptoms Is Important.

Part of what Social Security will examine is how long your condition has existed and how much it disrupts your life. Once diagnosed, some people are able to function well through a combination of therapy and medication. Other people, however, can't function consistently due to the ups and downs of the disorder, ineffective treatments, the side-effects of medication and periods of decompensation in their condition. 

In order to be approved for Social Security, your mental disorder has to have lasted (or be expected to last) for at least 12 months. That means that you should be documenting your symptoms as time goes on, along with any side-effects from medication (which can also be quite disabling).

What Can You Use As Documentation?

Bipolar disorder is sometimes treated by primary care physicians, but you may also seek treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist. A psychologist or psychiatrist can perform mental functioning tests, and document the progression of your disease. Those records become the foundation of your case for benefits. 

It's also helpful if you:

  • Keep a detailed record or diary about how you feel each day. This can be used to show how often you have periods where you're unable to function, and how long those periods last.
  • Keep notes of any work attempts, and why the attempts failed. Include the names of immediate supervisors.
  • Keep a record of medications that you're taking, and side effects. Note how the side effects limit your ability to function. Do they make you tired, irritable, dizzy, or nauseated?
  • Follow recommended treatment. You may have difficulty qualifying for benefits if you discontinue treatment without your doctor's consent, because Social Security expects you to try to get better.
  • Make close family and friends aware of what's going on. Social Security occasionally contacts the family members or friends of disability applicants to ask questions about their ability to function.

While not everyone understands the crippling nature of uncontrolled bipolar disorder, you can rest assured that it is treated seriously by Social Security, and evaluated fairly. If you have bipolar disorder, and you've been denied for benefits, talk to an attorney,like those at Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law, who specializes in Social Security claims to see if he or she can assist you with your claim.