October 3, 2022


For First-Rate Health

Dear Annie: Experts offer advice on how to access disability payments for a mental health disorder

Dear Annie: Please tell “Ready to Die” that she can get disability payments because she has a mental health disorder. The problem is that people tell the disability examiners how badly they feel. But that is not the examiner’s job to assess. They want to know how dysfunctional your daily life is.

I am writing to offer suggestions to her and others who suffer from mental health issues but do not know how to secure disability benefits.

For instance, let’s take depression and how she might answer questions posed by the examiner: Can you drive yourself to the doctor? No, I can’t drive. Do you keep your house clean? Yes, but it takes me two weeks to vacuum the floor. The dishes pile up until they smell, so I only use paper plates and plastic silverware. Do you go grocery shopping? No, but a neighbor picks up what I need. I don’t eat much.

Here are some examples of how she might address manic phases: Can you drive? Sometimes, but I speed and can’t concentrate on safety. Do you clean your house? Yes, but I stay awake for three days and then fall back into lethargy. Do you dress yourself? Yes, but I throw on anything that’s on the floor. Sometimes, people laugh at me for how I’m dressed.

People with mental illness need someone to practice with them before they are examined. They are focused on their suffering, for good reason.

Find an experienced disability lawyer. They can often help you to prepare for an examiner’s interview. Some attorneys might be sleazy, but there are also some fine, dedicated lawyers. Your case will move forward much more quickly, even if that feels like a long time. Remember that when you do get Social Security Disability Insurance, they will pay from the date of the application, not the date of approval.

Get a case manager or someone to help you through this process. Any psychiatric records are helpful. Do not say you drink, or whatever, to medicate. The way you should frame it is to explain that you have an addiction problem.

So many individuals fail to get the benefits they are entitled to because not even most therapists or psychiatrists understand how this system works. — Ph.D.

Dear Ph.D.: I always love when professionals reach out with advice, including the next letter about finding a psychiatrist and an attorney.

Dear Annie: This is about the unfortunate individual with severe treatment-resistant depression, who will definitely qualify for total and permanent disability.

She should see a competent psychiatrist ASAP, and they will help her with the most modern effective management of depression.

In addition, they will be able to write appropriate letters to the Social Security Administration and other agencies so that she will receive total permanent medical disability, which she richly deserves. — Right to an Attorney

Dear Right: Thank you for sharing your advice. Let’s hope it helps all readers who are suffering from depression and who have, so far, not been able to secure disability payments.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected].