I hear it all the time from people, “My neighbor is on social security and there’s nothing wrong with them.”
I respond by telling them that they may not understand what’s really going on. Mental illness is a disability you can’t always see. On the other side of that comment are the family members and loved ones of this population thinking: There must be somebody who can help us.
That’s where I come in. To provide an example, a client I represented was suffering from bipolar disorder. In his case, he could function normally for months at a time but then would be hospitalized for suicidal ideations for weeks on end. While we initially lost the case in court we then sued the federal government and won.
In the world of disability there are four areas of mental illness. They include mood disorders such as major depression and bipolar, anxiety-related disorders such as PTSD and panic attacks, schizophrenia, which includes psychosis and thought disorders like autism and dementia.
Someone with general anxiety disorder (GAD) can have panic attacks or suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This can lead to obsessive thoughts, which can affect their ability to concentrate on the job, or they could break down from stress.
People can also develop reactive depression due to the loss of a marriage, a loved one, or even their physical health. For example, when people develop a chronic physical disability or lose their job they can become depressed or acquire general anxiety disorder from financial insecurity.
However, unlike a physical condition where a conclusion can be made with an X-ray or MRI, in proving mental health disability the law is designed to only accept diagnosis to support those with objective evidence.
Mental illness is probably the most difficult disability to prove because it’s the most ambiguous. About half the claims I represent are mental health-related and roughly 80 percent of my clients have some measure of mental health co-diagnosis.
In these cases, the team includes the claimant, lawyer and treating doctor. The doctor is responsible for filling out a form related to a person’s functioning ability and that’s the evidence we use in court to prove our case.
We look at the functional impact to establish how their mental health problem impacts their work capacity by answering a series of questions. They often include: Can you finish what you start? Can you follow instructions? Can you take criticism without getting overwhelmed?
The burden is on the disability claimant to prove that they’re disabled and while disability can’t be voluntary, a person must be sane enough to ask for help.
That’s why having someone like me is particularly valuable. I’m willing to fight for clients and quarterback the paperwork and appeals through court hearings. Those I’m able to help feel a great deal of relief and satisfaction when I can take these worries away.
My job is not only rewarding, but also soul-fueling. This is what I was put on Earth to do.