Mental Illness and Obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits

It is no secret that the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies two-thirds of initial Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications. It’s not common knowledge that many are denied for “failure to cooperate,” or FTC.

Given that seeking SSDI benefits is stressful, tedious, complex and confusing, it is less surprising to realize the implications for those who have a severe mental illness. Individuals with schizophrenia, severe depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses face a greater likelihood of missed deadlines and being unresponsive to requests. FTC denials are a hazard for people with mental illnesses.

Tai Venuti, Manager of Strategic Alliances at Allsup, attended the NAMI California 2013 Annual Conference last month where mental health consumers, advocates and parents shared how difficult their SSDI journey had been, how they or their loved ones missed deadlines, were overwhelmed by paperwork, had difficulty obtaining medical records or were too anxious to make appointments, and their claims were denied.

“If you’re in denial about your mental illness, how on earth are you going to prove you have one?” asked one parent. When reviewing a claim of mental illness, the SSA advises its employees to include an appropriate third party (a family member, friend, etc.) to participate and assume the claimant needs assistance if he or she fails to provide medical evidence. The feedback Venuti got from the mental health community last week suggested these steps aren’t always followed.

This is one reason, according to Venuti, many people benefit from the help of an SSDI representative like Allsup, which can provide much needed assistance to claimants who aren’t able to handle this process on their own. Allsup is a disability representation company founded by Jim Allsup, a former SSA field rep. Allsup also does what it can to facilitate the SSA’s own requirements—helping Social Security workers gather the information, records and details they need, including using electronically enhanced processes—to make this process as simple as it can be.

For more resources provided by Allsup for those with mental illness, visit Allsup’s Resource Center.


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