Social Security disability claims based on mental or cognitive disorders can be very challenging to win, especially for applicants who aren't represented by a disability attorney. To give yourself the best chance of success, consider hiring an experienced disability lawyer—one who understands Social Security's complex rules and regulations and knows how to develop the evidence needed to prove your case. Here are examples of how an attorney can help you win disability benefits for a mental or cognitive condition:
Let's look at these items in more detail.
In claims based on mental and cognitive impairments, a disability attorney can assess whether your condition meets the requirements of any of the listed conditions in Social Security's Blue Book. Many of the listings in the Blue Book are complicated and some require a certain amount of legal or medical training to understand fully. In addition, all of the mental and cognitive listings were changed and updated in 2017, and lawyers are familiar with what these changes mean for disability applicants.
Your lawyer will understand not only the technical language of the listings, but also how to work with your doctor to obtain a helpful medical opinion. If your physician is unwilling to assist with your case, your attorney might be able to arrange for you to see another doctor.
Whether or not your condition meets a mental disability listing, it's essential that you present as much evidence of your impairments as possible to Social Security. Your lawyer can help you develop evidence prior to your hearing in several ways, including the following:
If your file contains any unfavorable evidence, such as drug or alcohol abuse or lapses in medical treatment, your attorney will try to mitigate (lessen) the damage as much as possible. For example, your attorney could argue that you stopped receiving psychiatric treatment for financial reasons, not because you weren't experiencing severe mental health symptoms.
For many claimants, particularly those with mental or cognitive issues, the disability hearing can be a stressful experience. Disabled individuals are expected to discuss highly sensitive and personal information with a disability judge whom they have never met. The best way to prepare for this situation is to discuss the hearing in depth with your disability attorney so that you know what to expect.
A good disability attorney will explain to you:
Many claimants find it easier to testify in front of the judge if they've already practiced their answers with their attorney. Moreover, most people, especially those with cognitive or psychological issues, find it comforting to have an advocate sitting next to them at the hearing and arguing on their behalf.
Following your hearing, your lawyer will explain to you the next steps in the process: either receiving an approval or appealing your case to the Appeals Council and possibly federal court.
Hiring an attorney to handle your Social Security disability claim is likely to increase your chances of success, especially if you suffer from mental or cognitive impairments. Most attorneys charge no fee up-front and are paid only if you collect benefits.