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Bi-polar disorder and social security disability claims.

Mankato, MN |

I have been diagnosed bi-polar since 2003. What is required for an individual with bi-polar to get social security disability benefits? I was denied initially because I had worked previously and had finished school. Now I am nearing the stage where I will see a judge.

Attorney Answers 5


Contact an attorney. It is important to understand that it is not your diagnosis that is relevant for social security, it is the severity, documented by medical records, that is at issue.
Most attorneys will give a free consultation.

No attorney client relationship is created by the above response. The above response if for general information only. Nothing in the responses should be construed as legal advice for any personal injury, workers' compensation, Social Security disability case, or any other type of case. While we provide legal services to those in Oklahoma, nothing can replace actual legal services provided by engaging an attorney.

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I agree -- you should speak with at least one local attortney who specializes in Social Security Disability. There is no fee unless you win (then the attorney gets 25% of your back award with a maximum of $6000 currently). Statistics show that claimants who go to hearing with an attorney are more likely to receive benefits. You can search here on Avvo for a lawyer, or go to

It is true that your diagnosis is the what determines if you are disabled under the law. The judge will look at how your impairment limits your ability to perform many tasks, such as getting along with others, ability to focus an complete tasks, follow instructions, and many more.

Attorney Inga Stevens is licensed in Maine. She provides general information on No attorney-client relationship arises out of the information given here.

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Very few mental health cases meet or equal a listing. Thus you have to show, depending on your age, education and past work experience, that your condition has limitations that prohibit you from doing any kind of work.

That includes not only any work you've done in the past, but also any other type of work out there. I always ask my client's to tell me why they cannot sit/stand at a table and sort sheets colored paper into piles by color, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, all year long.

As you are headed for a hearing, there are many responsibilities that you will have that Social Security doesn't tell you. This includes providing updated medical records on your condition and any records Social Security failed to get at previous levels. In addition, it will be up to you to do any cross examination of any experts at your hearing.

With those type of responsibilities you may wish to consult an attorney to help you with your case. An attorney will know what records are needed and how to get them, but most importantly, they will know how to best present your case and cross examine those experts to improve your chances of winning.

Please note that this is a general answer to a general question and does not constitute any attorney-client relationship. Please seek out an attorney in your area to discuss your matter.

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First, many of my clients have gotten disability based on bipolar disorder. You do not necessarily have to have a physical condition that limits your ability to move, lift, etc. A mental condition can be just as disabling.

In a good mental health case, a client likely deals with symptoms several times during work hours. The symptoms last for at least 1.5 hours during regular work hours. The symptoms are intense (to the point the client cannot do anything but attempt to cope and manage the symptoms).

I like to pose questions about the intensity and frequency of a client's symptoms to their psychologist or psychiatrist. In a very good mental health case, the client's doctor will state, in writing, that the client is simply having too many symptoms too often (usually via an assessment form provided by an attorney). Then, the job expert in the hearing should say that a person like my client can't be employed. Then, the judge should declare the client disabled.

I've won many more cases based on the mental health "Listings" than other Listings (especially physical). A Listing is essentially defines a medical condition that Social Security says is disabling without job expert testimony. It usually takes a lot to prove a Listing, such as diagnostic tests that are very costly and/or rarely used. This less common with the mental health Listings.

All in all, don't handle this on your own. Get an attorney. 9 of 10 times, the consultation is free, and you don't pay your attorney until you get paid by Social Security. Trust me, Social Security law practices don't stay open catering to the rich. They cater to people who cannot work. If you are at the hearing level, you are running out of time to get one. Many attorneys won't take a client if they don't have time to order their medical records. If you go to the hearing without an attorney, consider asking the judge to postpone it long enough for you to get an attorney and for the attorney to order your records.

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1 comment

Julie Elizabeth Moya

Julie Elizabeth Moya


Also, the fact that you've worked and gone to school won't necessarily disqualify you, but you are DEFINITELY going to need an attorney to help you demonstrate to a judge how your condition has changed from when you were successfully working and going to school.


Many people get discouraged by the long delay in getting a decision by Social Security, or they get denied at the initial level and give up. Don't give up! Social Security has a technical definition of Bipolar Disorder contained in Listing 12.04, but you don't have to be a lawyer to be successful. Talk to your treating psychiatrist or psychologist and get them to write a detailed letter on your behalf setting out your limitations. Get written statements from your past employers, coworkers, teachers, and fellow students explaining how they saw you struggle with everyday tasks and why they think you can't work full time. It can all seem overwhelming and you may wish to hire an attorney to help. These cases are handled on contingent fees so you aren't paying the attorney unless you are awarded benefits.

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