Bipolar Disorder And Disability Benefits: Advice For Claimants

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Bipolar disorder is an increasingly common mental health problem that can cause several serious side effects. People living with bipolar disorder often struggle with common daily tasks, and sufferers are sometimes unable to work. In the United States, people with bipolar disorder can sometimes get disability benefits, but it's important to understand how the extent of your illness can influence your claim. Learn how bipolar disorder can lead to disability, and find out what you may need to do to successfully claim benefits.

The effects of bipolar disorder

According to the International Bipolar Foundation, around 5.7 million adults in America suffer from the condition. Bipolar normally develops when you reach late adolescence, but some children start to show symptoms from an earlier age. Sadly, some people suffer with bipolar for several years before a doctor recognizes the symptoms and prescribes a course of treatment.

Bipolar is a long-term illness, and people with the condition generally suffer the symptoms throughout their lives. The disease leads to episodes of mania and depression, and sufferers often experience severe mood swings and delusions. Other symptoms include extreme irritability, poor judgment, problems with concentration and aggressive behavior. Understandably, these (and other) symptoms mean that people with bipolar often find it hard to find and keep a job.

Types of bipolar disorder

Bipolar affects people in different ways, and some sufferers experience more severe symptoms than others. Doctors will use different criteria to decide how serious your bipolar disorder is, according to the following definitions:

  • Bipolar I disorder is the most severe form of the disease, and sufferers normally experience one or more manic episodes a day
  • Bipolar II disorder, which a doctor may diagnose after one or more major episodes, but your mood swings are less severe
  • Not otherwise specified (NOS), which applies when your symptoms follow no real pattern
  • Cyclothymia is a milder form of the condition, with symptoms fluctuating over a two-year period
  • Rapid cycling occurs when you have four or more manic episodes in a 12-month period, but this condition is often temporary

A correct diagnosis is vital, as this is the only way a doctor can help you effectively treat the symptoms. This diagnosis can also help the authorities decide if your claim is valid, but misdiagnosis is common. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance estimates that doctors misdiagnose 70 percent of people with the condition.

Schemes available to claimants

In the United States, people with bipolar can claim through two programs that the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers - Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You can only claim for SSDI if you have paid Social Security through employment. Anyone can claim for SSI, but the scheme has stricter financial limits.

It's worth hiring a disability attorney to support your claim for SSDI or SSI. If the SSA denies your first claim, it's often difficult to get the Administration to overturn their decision, and it's much better to make sure your first claim is valid. An experienced attorney can help you include all the information the SSA will want to see, and he or she can also make sure you have the right diagnosis.

Things to consider when claiming disability for bipolar

The SSA will not approve a claim based solely on a doctor's diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As part of your claim, you will need to show the Administration that your condition makes it impossible to work. Every case is different, and it is impossible to compile a complete checklist of considerations, but claimants commonly face certain issues.

You cannot claim for SSDI or SSI if you have not had serious symptoms for at least 12 months. If your medical records show that you have improved at intervals in this period, the SSA may only count the time since your condition last worsened. In these cases, claimants need to show that these mood swings are part of the problem, and you will need to prove that the frequency of these shifts negatively impacts on daily life.

Your doctor's opinion is very important. The SSA will normally ask for a detailed explanation of your symptoms, and your doctor will probably have to explain how many work days you normally miss. The SSA is unlikely to accept opinions from therapists or social workers in isolation. This type of evidence is useful, but the SSA will still expect to see a doctor's statement. You can ask the SSA to refer you to a psychologist if you can't afford to see one.

The SSA will also want to understand what treatment your doctor has recommended, as well as your compliance with his or her advice. For example, if your doctor recommends medication that you don't then take, the SSA may deny your claim because you have ignored professional advice. If this has occurred, you may need to explain this, so you should explain if you couldn't afford to buy the drugs.

Bipolar disorder is a serious condition that affects millions of American people. The SSA allows people with severe symptoms to claim disability benefits, but you will need to put forward a compelling case.

For more information, work with an experienced lawyer from a firm like Iler and Iler


12 February 2015

Noni and the Accident

My name is Noni. When I was in college, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. My life was never in danger, but I did break a few bones and had a lot of huge medical bills. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get involved with an attorney, but unfortunately, it came down to that. I used a family friend who is an accident attorney to get some compensation. A few years later, I was hit while riding my bike and had to go through the same process. I suppose I'm lucky to be alive. And it's thanks to accident attorneys that I have been able to put my life back together. I started this blog as a way to let others know just how much lawyers can help you in certain situations.