Disability claims based on psychological/emotional disorders succeed or fail based on whether the claimant’s mental impairment either meets or equals Social Security’s listing criteria for psychological/emotional disorders. The listings, which are a set of requirements for particular impairments which Social Security recognizes as automatically qualifying a claimant if met or equaled, are different for different mental disorders, e.g. depression, bi-polar disorder, etc. Generally, however, they use the following criteria:
A. marked impairment in two of the three areas of functioning:
- social interaction
- concentration, persistence, and pace in completing tasks
- performance of activities of daily living, OR
B. severe impairment in any of the above three areas, OR
C. three or more episodes of de-compensation in work or work like settings.
The best way to prove a mental impairment is to have an established history of evaluation and treatment by mental health professionals and a mental health treatment provider who will file a report with Social Security that supports the fact that the claimant meets the listing criteria. The opinions of primary care providers who may be simply prescribing anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication is usually not sufficient. Where the mental health treatment sources decline to complete reports, as do many of the state funded community health treatment facilities, then an evaluation and report by a psychiatrist or psychologist is very often necessary.
At the hearing level, except in the most obvious of cases, testimony from the claimant might need to be supported by the testimony of family and friends for the claim to succeed.