Guest Post: OCD, Anxiety Disorders, and Social Security Disability Benefits by Molly Clarke

Arboretum Flower: Another random flower pic that I love and that I took on campus.  Thought it went nicely with this theme :)
Just a pretty picture that I wanted to share 🙂

Alright everyone, so this post is going to be a little different that what I write usually.  I was contacted a few weeks ago by Molly Clarke, who is affiliated with an organization called Social Security Disability Help.  Just as it sounds, the organization’s goal is to help individuals understand how social security disability works.  I read through this article that she wrote and then sent me and have to say, it is incredibly insightful for someone with OCD.  I know there are people out there reading this blog that have a more debilitating form of OCD and who might benefit from reading this.  Even if you don’t have OCD, I think it’s worth a read.  Thank you Molly and thank you everyone for reading!

Here’s the article:

OCD, Anxiety Disorders, and Social Security Disability Benefits

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by uncontrollable thoughts and repetitive, ritualistic behaviors. Although many individuals with OCD are able to lead relatively normal lifestyles, others are severely limited by their condition.

If OCD prevents you from working, the loss of income and lack of medical insurance can be financially devastating. Fortunately, if you are facing these circumstances, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Disability benefits can be used to offset lost income, costly medical bills, and day-to-day living expenses.

The following article will provide a general overview of the different benefit options and will prepare you to begin the Social Security Disability application process.

Disability Benefit Programs and Technical Eligibility Criteria

The Social Security Administration offers two different types of disability benefits—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each program has its own set of technical eligibility requirements.

SSDI- SSDI is a type of insurance program that offers benefits to disabled workers. Technical eligibility for SSDI benefits is based on an applicant’s employment history and past tax contributions. If you are under the age of 31 it can be very difficult to qualify for SSDI due to lack of employment history.  To learn more about qualifying for SSDI, visit the following page: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/glossary/social-security-disability-insurance-ssdi.

SSI- SSI is different from SSDI in that is a needs-based benefit program that offers financial assistance to disabled adults and children who earn very little income. Eligibility for SSI is based on a person’s income rather than on work history and taxes.  To qualify for SSI, applicants cannot exceed the strict financial limitations put in place by the SSA.  Learn more about SSI technical eligibility and financial requirements, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/glossary/supplemental-security-income-ssi.

If an applicant qualifies for SSDI but still falls within the financial limits of the SSI program, he or she may qualify for both types of disability assistance.

Social Security Disability Medical Eligibility Requirements

In addition to meeting technical eligibility requirements, applicants must also meet medical eligibility requirements. These requirements can be found in the SSA’s official manual of disabling conditions—commonly referred to as the blue book. The blue book contains the medical requirements for all potentially disabling conditions.

The SSA’s blue book provides the medical requirements for OCD under blue book listing 12.06—Anxiety-Related Disorders.  To qualify under this listing, applicants with OCD must provide medical documentation proving that they experience a combination of the following:

  • Generalized anxiety; and/or
  • A persistent irrational fear and avoidance of a specific object, activity, or situation; and/or
  • Recurrent, unpredictable panic attacks that happen on a weekly basis; and/or
  • Recurrent obsessions or compulsions that cause serious distress; and/or
  • Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience.

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, a person must experience these symptoms to such a degree that they repeatedly interfere with daily living, social interaction, and concentration or otherwise cause a complete inability to function outside of one’s home.

To access this complete blue book listing, visit the following page: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm#12_06.

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Prior to beginning the application process, applicants should collect all necessary medical and non-medical documentation.  Medical documentation should detail the symptoms and limitations you face as a result of OCD. This documentation will serve as proof of your condition and is vital to your claim. You can find a complete list of all required documents on the SSA’s Adult Disability Checklist– http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/Documents/Checklist%20-%20Adult.pdf.

After collecting the necessary documents and records, you can begin the application process online or in person at a local Social Security field office.  The application itself is made up of several different forms. It is important that you fill these out in as much detail as possible. Any missing or incomplete information can result in the delay or even the denial of your claim. If you plan to apply in person, you should bring all of the records and documents that you collected. If you are applying online, the SSA will provide you with a cover sheet that will allow you to fax your documentation in.

Once you submit your application, you may not receive a decision for several months. If your initial application is denied, it is important that you do not give up. You have 60 days in which to appeal the SSA’s decision.  At first glance, a denied claim may be discouraging. However, the appeals process is often a necessary step toward receiving disability benefits. In fact, many more applicants are approved during the appeals process than during the initial application.

For more information about OCD and disability benefits visit Social Security Disability Help http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder or contact Molly Clarke at mac@ssd-help.org.

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23 thoughts on “Guest Post: OCD, Anxiety Disorders, and Social Security Disability Benefits by Molly Clarke

  1. I am a veteran who suffers from General Anxiety Disorder. The abuse of my childhood was very traumatic and difficult to deal with. In fact, the malady has caused me to avoidance and some OCD disorders which I will not elucidate on here. Suffice it to say that I have the necessary qualifications for disability. I guess what matters most aside from the financial is defining what happened and how to move on. I realize the past remains real but that it’s effect can be somewhat mitigated.

    Thanks for the great article and I pray for your comfort as well. Good blog!

    1. You’re welcome. I think it’s important to share things like this every now and again. I wish you the best in your path in confronting your past. I empathize with you because I know how difficult this can be to do.

  2. I wish I’d read this earlier – about the 60 days. I was evaluated by a psych for SSI in June. She recommended me for qualifying, but said to expect a denial, as most people are denied at first. She also recommended appealing with a lawyer. I’ve been debating appealing or not, but no it’s been more than 60 days. Oh well- I’ll just keep on for now. Good luck to you though!😊

    1. The system is extremely tricky. I work with insurance, which is not exactly the same, but similar in some ways. Day in and day out I’m floored by the crap that is pulled and is allowed to be pulled! I think you should appeal it. Not every situation is the same and something may change for you. Don’t give up 🙂

    2. Always appeal the denial. Request a hearing in front of an ALJ. 99% of people who go before the judge win their case, with or without a lawyer. In most cases, you can find a lawyer that SS will pay for. Check your state/county and look into lawyers that will work for you for free. You can also call your State Bar Association and ask them for a referral to someone who works SS cases in your area.

  3. It’s good that assistance is available but it never ceases to amaze me how bureaucracies, everywhere, require a person to be judged and scrutinised and armed with endless paperwork, and strong enough for appeals and waiting around for months….when a person is clearly already having difficulties. There must be a better system!!!

    1. There must be. It’s terrible. I have seen two individuals in my family struggling to get help from this system. The process just doesn’t makes sense. it’s all about play on words and finding loopholes. Hopefully there will be some change in the near future.

  4. Very informative post. Love both the post and the following up comments. I have PTSD which at times can freeze me in a state of pure panic with flashbacks that bring me to my knees. I found your post very interesting and I thank you fo9r sharing. Best wishes in ALL that you do.

  5. As a former Social Security employee, the person that is outside of their appeals period needs to refile their claim unless they can present good cause for late filing of the appeal. The reason so many disability cases (OCD as well as other impairments) are denied on the first filing is because the information that is furnished by treating sources does not speak to how the condition prevents the individual from performing substantial gainful activity. With the advances in medical treatments, it is crucial that the treating source speak to how the person is limited. I suffer with panic attacks, but I was able to handle them in such a way that they did not impede me from performing my job duties successfully. Specifics are important.

  6. I am on SSI for my bipolar disorder, and I really liked this article because I feel like it’s taking some of the shame out of the process and normalizing it. So many times I get asked “What’s your disability?” and told “You don’t look disabled!”. I consistently feel worthless because I can’t work right now, and that’s something I’m trying to address in therapy. I think it’s good to remember that sometimes people need help and it’s OK to need help.

    1. I’m glad the article was helpful to you. I hate when people say, well you don’t look like anything’s wrong. Or something along those lines. It can be very hurtful. I hope you can find the help that you are seeking.

  7. Hi Megan, thanks for letting Molly post! My heart goes out to all who commented and shared their scars of the past and the daily struggles as a result. Chains were made to be broken and I wish you guys all the best. Anyway, I digress—I wonder if Molly knows what how the Affordable Care Act affects this? There’s a ton of in’s and out’s to it, but I know that those suffering from metal health issues will find it easier to seek treatment; but relative to SS Disability benefits, I wonder what the outcomes are. Have a good day 😀

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