In 2017 new rules for the evaluation of mental disorders by the Social Security Administration (SSA) went into effect. The SSA has not revised the rules for SSDI mental disorders since 1990. Rules changes were originally proposed in late 2010, but were pushed back to accommodate the release of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) that was finally released in 2013. It was decided that new rules changes for the SSA should also include changed language and views that the American Psychiatric Association were making in the latest revision and edition of the DSM so as to maintain consistency.
What are these rule changes based on?
The SSA developed the rule changes and put them out for commentary through a variety of entities and professionals that serve the mentally ill in different ways. The polishing of the information and rules comes not only from the experiences of the SSA in evaluating claims for SSDI mental disorders, but from the knowledge and experience of various mental health professionals, social workers, and associated groups. Further refinement of the rules is also based on advancing medical knowledge and treatment practices of mental illness.
The approved individuals and groups were able to read the initial draft of the rules changes so they could provide comments and suggestions. These comments and suggestions were then evaluated by the SSA and either approved and integrated into the work, or denied with a reasonable explanation attached. There were about 2,450 suggestions and comments made.
What were the comments and suggestions?
The comments and suggestions given ranged from the nuances of certain words and how they changed the interpretation of sentences, to reordering the organizational structure, to honing the information presented. The entirety of the text is about 50 pages and goes well beyond the scope and subject of this post. The published document with comments and responses can be found here if you would like to see the final version with explanations for SSDI mental disorders. SOAR also summarized the revised mental health criteria.
What do these changes mean for mentally ill people applying for SSDI?
The Social Security Administration is a government organization, part of a bureaucracy. Details are important when submitting paperwork to an administrative organization. One must cross their t’s and dot their i’s. The refinement of the evaluation criteria is a reflection of that need. The changes made are a reflection of advancing medical knowledge and more experience with social programs that serve the mentally ill.
The clarification of criteria should make it easier for people who should be approved to get approved, as well as speeding up the whole process by allowing the professionals performing evaluations to finish their job more efficiently.
How can I improve my chances for being approved for SSDI mental disorders?
These changes aren’t going to impact the application process for SSDI mental disorders in a serious way. The same factors that were important before the changes are still important now. Approval boils down to proving how one’s mental illness directly and negatively impacts their every day life and ability to be gainfully employed.
The keyword is “proof.” The more evidence the applicant provides of their mental illness preventing them from engaging in gainful employment, the more likely they are to be approved.
First and foremost: apply. If you are mentally ill and you’re not sure about applying, stop thinking about it and just do it. Benefits and awards are based off of the date of application. The sooner you apply, the better off you are because you may need to appeal if you are denied. Always appeal if you are denied. Approval can be a lengthy process.
The application itself includes different areas for you to tell the SSA evaluators how you experience mental illness in your every day life. Do not neglect these areas. The more relevant information you provide, the greater your chances of being approved. It is not enough to say I have X mental illness, because everyone will experience X mental illness in different ways, some more severe than others.
You will be asked to sign release forms that the SSA can send to facilities that provided services to you for your mental health care. Be sure to fill out these forms correctly and sign them. Evaluation and approval times get dragged out additional weeks because applicants do not take the time to sign and date their forms.
Be certain to keep all of your doctor’s appointments. It can be tempting to skip over them if you’re not feeling too badly or things are relatively smooth. Consistency demonstrates to the SSA that you are engaging in ongoing care for your mental illness by keeping doctor appointments and getting any relevant testing performed, such as blood work for medication or evaluations.
Legislation and administration practices do change periodically. What hasn’t changed is the SSA’s role as a provider of an important social safety net to keep the mentally ill and other at-risk people from falling too far. It can be a difficult and trying process at times, but it is important to stay focused on the facts, evidence, and paperwork that will help you get approved.
Any questions or thoughts you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section!