We’ll follow up our recent discussion on benefits for mental health impairments with a look at how these disorders are assessed. The information is intended to be general in nature only and not specific legal advice for anyone seeking support.

Determining the impact of a mental disorder on an applicant’s ability to work is not always as straightforward as it is with a physical impairment. There is no single, universally applicable test that can be applied, and even if there was, a mental impairment can affect an individual’s very ability to answer questions or describe symptoms. Generally, the Social Security Administration must directly review medical records, input from family members and data about the applicant’s daily living activities. The SSA may also order an examination, called a mental consultative exam by an independent physician.

The SSA will use the information available to determine what it calls your residual functional capacity. This is the agency’s measure of how significantly your disorder limits your ability to work. The RFC looks at the areas of your social interactions, adaptation, understanding and memory, and sustained concentration and persistence. Each of these will be evaluated separately, with a maximum rating of “markedly limited.” An RFC of markedly limited in at least one of the listed areas is usually required in order to receive Social Security Disability for a mental health disorder.

Working with a legal professional during the application process can help present a strong initial claim, supported by all of the available evidence. A professional with experience in Social Security Disability claims will know the best way to demonstrate a markedly limited RFC in your case.

Source: FindLaw, “Mental Health Disability Claims,” accessed on Feb. 9, 2018