People with anxiety disorders, like all those with mental illness, have challenging situations for disability claims. Diagnosis is sometimes difficult, but the case must fit into a legal framework for a Social Security claim to be successful. In proving anxiety disorders for Social Security disability claims, there can be a clear path to winning these cases. Once a diagnosis has been established, the key is proving functional impairment.
Some anxiety disorders may qualify an applicant for benefits. There is a spectrum of impairments, from general nervousness and apprehension to PTSD and severe phobias. Whether it is intense recollections of a past event, or panic attacks, from a legal point of view the case must be developed to demonstrate functional impairment. The question is: Does your impairment-driven capacity and behavior interfere with your ability to work?
Functional impairment for anxiety requires at least two “marked” limitations in the activities of daily living or social functioning. It also looks at impairments in “concentration, persistence, or pace,” and “episodes of decompensation” – meaning deterioration in work-like settings.
A lot of jargon to be sure. Sometimes medical providers and therapists throw up their hands and ask “how do I prove those things?” The process is actually quite simple, and establishing functional impairment can mean the difference between winning and losing. Winning can make the difference between access to treatment or not.
The first step is a diagnosis. The Social Security law now tracks the 1994 DSM IV. For example, to prove a diagnosis of anxiety, you have to show at least three clinical signs — such as worry, irritability, insomnia, tiredness, sharp startle reflex, or difficulty focusing. In addition, there must be two functional impairments.
Someone who is homebound or never leaves a restricted setting may not have to meet the functional impairment criteria. If necessary, the information should also be obtained from non-medical sources, such as family members and others, to supplement the medical record of impairment severity and longitude.
For assistance to prove anxiety for your disability claim, please do not hesitate to contact us.
ADAA – Anxiety and Depression Association of America has educational resources and local resources for therapists in your area.
NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health has a dedicated section to anxiety, treatment plans, and support.
SSA Mental Disorders Listing – Under the SSA’s disability section, this link explains the criteria for functional limitations for anxiety.