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Defining Mental Illness in Chicago Disability Cases


Under Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines, mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities can qualify an individual for disability benefits. The Administration evaluates all claims according to strict criteria, however, making it critical for applications to contain thorough documentation and adhere to proper procedures. Understanding how SSA defines mental illness is an important starting point when applying for disability benefits in Chicago.

How Does SSA Define Mental Illness and Intellectual Disability?

The SSA defines mental illness or intellectual disability by breaking down mental illnesses into categories. The Administration looks at how someone is limited in different areas of intellectual and social functioning to determine their capabilities. Somebody may be determined to be moderately limited or markedly limited.

If someone is markedly limited, their condition generally precludes them from even the most simple unskilled jobs. In contrast, if someone is only moderately limited, there are often other jobs they can perform. The primary takeaway is that SSA evaluates both an individual’s intellectual and social functioning and then looks at the level of severity.

Mental Residual Functional Capacity in Practice

Consider the case of a 55-year-old who previously worked as a receptionist. Due to their age and exertional limitations, they are physically limited to light work. When only these physical factors are considered, SSA may find that the person is able to return to their job as a receptionist. This determination could change, however, based on their mental residual functional capacity.

If mental limitations are added, such as a limit to jobs involving simple-routine tasks or jobs in which contact with the general public is limited, the individual may not be able to return to work as a receptionist. Tasks required at the person’s former job may require complex organizational skills or regular contact with others. When evaluating a disability claim, both physical and mental limitations are important.

The Importance of Medical Evidence

Anxiety and depression are common issues for individuals applying for disability in Chicago. People could be depressed for a number of reasons. They may have dealt with a death in the family, they may be under serious stress, or their physical condition could be causing their depression. Regardless of the cause, people are often reluctant to seek treatment from a mental health professional due to the social stigma. They may also feel that treatment will not be helpful.

In cases of alleged mental health impairment, it is important to have a longitudinal record showing that they have sought treatment for those issues. SSA looks for documentation showing that even with treatment, whether through counseling or medicine, the individual is still struggling.

The more documentation provided of mental health treatment, the stronger the mental health aspect of the case is going to be. If somebody believes that their mental health factors are considerable and preventing them from maintaining a job, they could benefit from thorough documentation. People are encouraged to treat with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor because it makes a difference in the outcome of a case.

A neurocognitive assessment is another tool that can be very helpful in mental health cases, but they can sometimes be difficult to obtain due to the expense. These evaluations, performed by psychologists or neuropsychologists, explore the individual’s intellectual functioning in detail. That documentation is sometimes tremendously helpful if they are able to show a severe impairment.

Let a Chicago Attorney Help with Your Mental Health Disability Claim

SSA defines mental illness based on strict, holistic criteria when evaluating Chicago disability claims. The administration considers both an individual’s intellectual and social capacity when making a determination about whether they can return to work.

If you need help gathering your medical evidence, assembling a strong disability application, or appealing a denial, consider seeking help from a compassionate attorney. Legal counsel could handle the details of your case, leaving you to relax and focus on your future. Call now for a consultation.

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