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Does Bipolar Qualify For Social Security Disability?

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Qualifying individuals who are either aged 62 or older or who suffer from a disability can apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. SSD benefits are available for individuals who suffer from physical as well as mental disabilities; benefits are not restricted to applicants who have a physical ailment. Demonstrating a qualifying mental health disability, however, can be more challenging than proving eligibility via a physical disability. Continue reading to learn about whether and how bipolar disorder might qualify you for Social Security benefits, and reach out to a knowledgeable California Social Security Disability benefits lawyer with any questions or for help obtaining benefits for yourself or for a loved one.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression. Bipolar I refers to patients who alternate between severe depression and severe mania, while Bipolar II refers to patients who experience depression and mild mania (hypomania), but not mania that causes impairment. Patients with bipolar I are often diagnosed with additional mental health conditions such as anxiety.

Is Bipolar a Qualifying Disability?

If you have a diagnosable condition recognized by the medical community and the severity of that condition impairs your ability to function in a work environment, you might be entitled to SSD benefits. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) sets eligibility requirements for specific conditions, typically requiring both a medical diagnosis and proof of sufficiently severe symptoms that inhibit an applicant’s capacity to work.

Bipolar disorder is listed in the Social Security Listings of Impairments, meaning that a proper diagnosis of bipolar disorder along with sufficiently severe symptoms can qualify an applicant for SSD benefits. An individual with bipolar disorder may be eligible for benefits if they meet the evaluation criteria listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, and if they have received a medical-vocational disability endorsement based upon their residual functional capacity, age, and education.

To qualify for benefits based on depression or bipolar disorder, the applicant must satisfy either A and B or A and C of the following:

  1. Proof of symptoms of either depression or bipolar disorder:
    1. At least five symptoms of depression, including:
      1. Depressed mood
      2. Loss of interest in activities
      3. Weight changes
      4. Trouble sleeping
      5. Movement limitations
      6. Decreased energy
      7. A feeling of guilt or worthlessness
      8. Trouble concentrating or thinking
      9. Thoughts of death or suicide
    2. OR at least three symptoms of bipolar disorder, including:
      1. Unnaturally fast, frenzied speech
      2. Quickly changing ideas and thought patterns
      3. Inflated self-esteem (generally, based on false beliefs)
      4. Easily distracted
      5. Increased participation in risky activities, such as gambling
      6. Decreased need for sleep
  2. Extreme limitation of one, or “marked” limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
    1. Ability to understand, remember, or apply information
    2. Ability to interact with other people
    3. Ability to concentrate or maintain pace
    4. Ability to adapt or self-manage
  3. A mental disorder categorized as “serious and persistent,” meaning the patient has a medically documented history with the disorder for at least two years, including:
    1. Medical treatment of the condition, and
    2. Limited capacity to adapt to changes in the environment or demands not already a part of daily life

A patient who satisfies either A and B or A and C can qualify for SSD benefits based on bipolar or depressive disorder. Patients who are already in a structured environment and thus do not experience the limitations listed in B can qualify for benefits by proving that the patient could not adapt should they be removed from that structured environment (i.e., they satisfy the criteria in numeral C).

The best way to support an application for disability benefits for bipolar disorder is to seek medical attention. Getting a diagnosis and commencing treatment for bipolar will not only aid in the management of or recovery from bipolar disorder; it will also build out the record for the SSA to review and consider the disability application.

Compassionate Help Getting You Your Disability Benefits

For help obtaining disability benefits in southern California or statewide, call the seasoned and thorough Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSD/SSI) attorneys Drake & Drake at 818-624-4695.

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