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Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits if I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is one of the most prevalent psychological conditions for which people apply for Social Security Disability. Typically, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder is diagnosed by a family doctor or treating psychologist or psychiatrist. In general terms, bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of manic episodes preceded or followed by major depressive episodes.

If you are interested in seeking Social Security Disability benefits for your Bipolar condition, contact Nolan & Shafer, PLC online or give us a call at (231) 403-0040 to learn about your options.

What Are the Causes of Bipolar Disorder?

As with most psychiatric illness, the exact causes are oftentimes difficult to pin down. However, medical literature seems to indicate that certain factors increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for someone to experience his or her first bout. These factors generally include genetics; whether you have a close relative, like a parent, sibling, or child with bipolar disorder or other serious psychiatric illness.

Oftentimes, genetic disorders lead to hormonal imbalances that can play a role in developing the disease. Traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, a very unpleasant divorce, and job loss have also been correlated with developing bipolar disorder. There is some evidence that substance abuse can either cause or exacerbate bipolar disorder as well.

Is There a Social Security Listing for Bipolar Disorder?

Yes. The most common way that someone can be awarded Social Security Disability benefits for bipolar disorder is to show that he or she meets the “listing” for bipolar depression. A Social Security Listing is a very specific set of medically documented findings, symptoms, and objective evidence. If someone has the medical evidence to prove that they meet the listing, it will not be necessary to prove anything else. That is, they will not need to prove that they cannot do their “past relevant work” or that they cannot do any other work in the regional or national economy, as is the case with most other claims.

The Social Security Listing for bipolar disorder can be found at 12.04.This listing requires that the person applying for disability have medically documented evidence of at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Pressured speech
  • Flight of ideas
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Distractibility
  • Involvement in activities that have high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized
  • Increase and goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation

If these symptoms can be medically documented, you will the need to show that you have an “extreme limitation of one, or “market limitation” of two of the following areas of mental functioning:

  • Understand, remember, or apply information
  • Interact with others
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
  • Adapter manage oneself

All of the terms above are highly technical, and the bottom line is that you have a low likelihood of proving your case without getting specific statements tailored to the language in the Social Security Listing. As such, it is imperative that you work with medical providers and attorneys who are familiar with the Social Security rules.

Although winning your disability case for bipolar disorder will likely be very difficult, if you have extremely serious symptoms, and your treating doctors are supportive, the right lawyer can help you make an effective claim for your situation.

Residual Functional Capacity for Bipolar Disorder

If you cannot show that you meet the Listing for bipolar disorder, you may Still qualify for benefits. To do so, the Administrative Law Judge must find that your “residual functional capacity” prevents you from working. To determine your residual functional capacity, the Administrative Law Judge will look at all of your mental and physical impairments and determine what sort of work you may be able to do given these conditions.

Oftentimes, people suffering from bipolar disorder also experience physical problems, such as chronic pain or other chronic illnesses (such as heart disease or diabetes) that make it difficult to complete physical work. Like depression, bipolar disorder can impact a person’s ability to concentrate and stay on task during the workday. Additionally, people suffering from bipolar disorder are likely to miss work due to lack of motivation or medical appointments. If the Administrative Law Judge finds that you’re going to be having unexcused absences or be off task while at work due to mental illness, you could be found disabled for these reasons as well.

Your chances of being approved for Social Security Disability benefits for bipolar disorder increase when you have a team of treating providers who are supportive and willing to write specific statements on your behalf to back your disability claim. Having a supportive treating family physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist is very important for these types of claims.

The following are some of the clinics in West Michigan that we typically find to be most helpful in supporting Social Security Disability claims for mental illness:

Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services
854 Washington, #330
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 355-3926

Start & Associates
320 Columbus Avenue
Grand Haven, MI 49417
(616) 607-4476

Psychology Associates of Grand Rapids PC
100 Parchment Drive SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616) 957-9112

Denied Disability for Bipolar Disorder? Don’t Give Up. Call Nolan & Shafer, PLC for Help.

Unfortunately, far too many people who suffer from bipolar disorder and are clearly disabled because of it are at first denied disability by the Social Security Administration. The reality of the situation is that a majority of disability claims have to be brought before an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing.

Furthermore, when someone is alleging primarily psychiatric illness as a basis for disability benefits, it is even more difficult to win. This is mostly because it is more difficult to measure or test for purely psychological problems. Whereas when someone has a broken leg it is easy to identify and confirm the case, it is significantly more difficult to know for sure when someone suffers from a legitimate mental illness like bipolar disorder. This is why it is critical to work with credible medical providers in supporting your claim.

Testifying before an Administrative Law Judge is a nerve-racking process, but Nolan & Shafer, PLC will make sure you are fully prepared to do so confidently. In addition to preparing the medical evidence in your case, we will meet with you several times prior to the hearing to adequately prepare you for the questions the judge is going to ask.

Unlike many nationwide and large firms, you will work with the same attorney from start to finish of your claim at Nolan & Shafer, PLC. What’s more, there’s no fee unless we win your case. Call (231) 403-0040 or contact us online today to discuss your situation.

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