In order to be found disabled because of a mental impairment, you must establish that you have a severe, medically determinable mental impairment that (a) has lasted for one year or is expected to last that long or to result in your death, and (b) prevents you from doing your previous work or any other type of work. In making its disability determination, the Social Security Administration will engage in the same 5-step sequential evaluation process that it uses for claims arising out of a physical impairment.
Proof of a severe, medically determinable mental impairment requires a diagnosis by a psychiatrist or licensed clinical psychologist, and documentation of the severity of the impairment and the consequent limitations. Evidence from your primary care physician will not be enough to establish a medically determinable mental impairment (unless he or she is a psychiatrist or licensed clinical psychologist). If necessary, Social Security may seek a consultative examination to obtain this evidence.
Once Social Security is satisfied that you have a severe, medically determinable mental impairment, the decision-maker will analyze the impact of your impairment on your ability to perform work-related functions. This analysis will focus on four areas of function:
- Activities of daily living – Are you able to take care of your day-to-day activities (e.g., hygiene, dressing, eating, cooking, cleaning, driving, shopping, etc.) independently, without monitoring or assistance?
- Social functioning – Are you able to interact appropriately and communicate effectively with others?
- Concentration, persistence, pace – Are you able to concentrate and see a job through to the end? Are you able to work at a reasonable pace? Are you able to follow directions?
- Deterioration or decompensation in a work or work-like setting – Are you able to handle the stress of a work environment or does it overwhelm you? Are you capable of exercising good judgment and making decisions in a work setting?
If your claim for Social Security disability benefits for a mental impairment was denied, a knowledgeable Detroit disability attorney may be able to help with your appeal. If you are not currently represented by a Detroit disability attorney, please contact me.