Proposed Law May Negatively Impact Mental Health Disability Claimants

Mental health and disability advocates around the nation are expressing concern at recently proposed changes to regulations set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to govern the issuance of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to those suffering from a recognized mental illness or impairment.

The proffered revisions are relatively vague in nature, and they arguably could be interpreted to require potential mental disability claimants to undergo standardized testing to determine their capability to hold down a job.

Advocates are particularly concerned about the possibility of testing given that there doesn't seem to be a consensus amongst mental health professionals about whether such testing could be an effective tool for an adjudicator considering a disability application. Specifically, they fear that it is not possible to implement a scientifically accepted standardized test that would adequately demonstrate a claimant's industrial function, especially given the wide range of symptoms, syndromes and personalities affected by mental disability.

The SSA currently recognizes a number of well-known mental illnesses and cognitive impairments as severe enough to possibly impair a claimant's function to the point of being disabling. These include:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as "manic depression" or "manic depressive disorder")
  • Severe anxiety / panic attacks
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - this is becoming more common among current and former military personnel returning from deployment in battle zones in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD) / Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism / Asberger's syndrome
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Severe learning disabilities like unmanaged dyslexia
  • Mental retardation resulting in low IQ or other developmental impairments

The proposed legislation has not yet been passed, so, for now, the current SSA regulations that do not require standardized testing are in effect. If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental impairment and are interested in learning more about applying for government benefits, consult an experienced social security disability attorney in your are to learn more about your legal rights and options.