The basic test for disability for Social Security is the impairment must be so severe it renders the claimant incapable of working for more than 12 months.

The problem I see with most people who call in with a mental impairment is they have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety or bi-polar. This type of diagnosis can mean you have a “problem” but it does not mean the problem is “disabling” within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Many of these disorders can be alleviated by medication. Also, if the diagnosis is by a general practitioner, then that is usually not good enough for Social Security. The case will be reviewed by a psychologist for Social Security who will usually have a different opinion. Thus, this type of case requires evaluation by either a psychiatrist or a psychologist. A licensed clinical social worker is also not considered a medical expert by Social Security.

If the claimant has a psychotic disorder, then the claimant may have a credible impairment. However, non-psychotic disorders like the ones I have listed above are the ones we see most often.

Another rule of thumb is if there have been no hospitalizations for the mental impairment then this is a warning the disorder may not be that severe.

In summary, simple depression, anxiety or a bipolar disorder may mean you have a problem. Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression but they also were outstanding leaders. The claimant with this type of problem can call a Social Security Lawyer but the claim may be very difficult to pursue.