The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) uses the same process for evaluating disability regardless of whether the cause is mental or physical. In short, the SSA determines whether or not the limitations from mental impairments result in a functional capacity to work.
The problem establishing mental, as opposed to physical, disability is that the doctors treating the problem usually refuse to disclose their treatment records as confidential and privileged. Even though no rule or regulation specifies that treatment records are required, the SSA rarely approves disability benefits now without them. One way to avoid this predicament is to show the claimant meets a listing through a treating doctor’s narrative report.
If a claimant meets the requirements of a mental listing, then he or she is presumed entitled to disability benefits. Even if a claimant has severe mental illness symptoms, unless they preclude or make it difficult to perform cognitive tasks and get along with others, he or she will not be granted disability. A narrative report explaining why a claimant meets the criteria of a listing should suffice to demonstrate the claimant’s presumptive disability due to the inability to perform the basic mental demands of work.
A 46 year old telecom worker retained me after her application for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits was denied. I obtained a report from the claimant’s psychologist explaining why she met the criteria of the listing for affective disorders. She was awarded SSD benefits based largely on the listing letter.