Qualifying for Disability Benefits (SSDI) with Bipolar Disorder in Pennsylvania

Bipolar disorder affects an estimated 5.7 million adults across the United States.  Most patients start to notice symptoms around age 25, though others may not experience any symptoms until they reach their forties or fifties.  But regardless of a patient’s age at onset, bipolar disorder can have debilitating effects that interfere with your ability to work.  If you’re struggling with employment because of your bipolar disorder, you may be a good candidate for monthly disability benefits through the SSA, or Social Security Administration.

The disability lawyers of Young, Marr & Associates can help.  Our attorneys have over two decades of experience representing clients in Pennsylvania, and our legal team enjoys an 80% success rate compared to the industry average of just 62%.  We work with both child and adult disability claimants, and can help you navigate the appeals process if you’ve already been denied.  To schedule a free and private case evaluation, call our law offices at (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today.

SSA Eligibility Requirements for Disability Claimants

Before you apply for disability, it’s important to understand the basic eligibility criteria the SSA uses to make decisions:

  1. You must be severely disabled, meaning your medical issue prevents you from maintaining steady employment.  If your disability is mild and you can work around it, you will not be considered eligible.
  2. Your disability must also be long-term, meaning it should have lasted (or be expected to last) for no fewer than 12 consecutive months.
  3. You must not be earning more than $1,070 per month.  If you are specifically applying for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), the income threshold is lower, but the SSA will not actually count all of your income toward the limit.  Our social security attorneys can help you understand the financial restrictions which apply to you.

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How to Qualify for Social Security Benefits with Bipolar Disorder

If you meet the general requirements noted above, it’s time to review the specific medical requirements that apply to claimants with bipolar disorder.

When the SSA’s medical examiners evaluate disability claimants, they use a technical guide called the Listing of Impairments.  The Listing of Impairments outlines condition-specific criteria which applicants must meet or equal in order to be considered “severely disabled.”  The entry for bipolar disorder can be found in Section 12.00 (Mental Disorders), under subsection 12.04 (Affective Disorders).

For affective disorders like bipolar disorder, there are three blocks of requirements labeled A, B, and C.  To qualify, you need to either:

  • Meet requirements contained under both A and B.
  • Meet requirements contained under C.  

The requirements under A include:

  • Persistent, medically documented depressive syndrome.  Symptoms might include persistent loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, trouble sleeping, changes in weight and appetite, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Manic syndrome.  Symptoms might include hyperactivity, difficulty focusing, delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.
  • Bipolar syndrome with a “history of episodic periods” including “both manic and depressive syndromes.”

These three A requirements must result in at least two of the following B requirements:

  • Pronounced limitations in your daily activities.
  • Pronounced difficulty with social situations.
  • Pronounced difficulty with concentration, maintaining a pace, or being persistent.
  • Lengthy recurring episodes of decompensation.  The SSA says that symptoms of decompensation include inability to adapt to stress, difficulty with daily functions and activities, and a temporary worsening of your symptoms.

If you don’t qualify based on the combined A and B requirements above, you might qualify based on C requirements instead.  To qualify under C, you must:

  • Have a “medically documented history” of a persistent affective disorder which (1) dates back at least two years, and (2) has severely limited your ability to work. Additionally, you need to have at least one of the following:
    • Lengthy recurring episodes of decompensation.
    • A disorder which is so severe that “even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment” would trigger decompensation.
    • A history, dating back at least one year, of “inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement.”  Your medical records should also indicate that this “inability to function” is not expected to change or subside in the future.

Call Our Philadelphia + Bucks County Social Security Lawyers Today

If you’re living with bipolar disorder and need help appealing a denied disability application, Young, Marr & Associates can help you navigate the process.  To set up a confidential legal consultation completely free of charge, call our law offices right away at (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.