Profound anxiety can be as disabling as any physical illness. Claims filed requesting disability benefits for anxiety can be among the toughest claims to win. To prove you’re disabled, what do the decision-makers need to see?
If you have been unfairly denied benefits based on anxiety, we have important information to share with you to help you succeed in getting the benefits you need.
Anxiety disorders are among the most claimed disabling conditions in the country.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by chronic and excessive worry about day-to-day problems. Anxiety disorders produce inner turmoil and fear, often with a sense of distress or dread. The worrying is often severe and impedes a person’s social and occupational functioning. For many who suffer from anxiety, it is extremely difficult to get through each day, much less hold down a job. Symptoms, complications, and treatment may make it impossible for you to work or earn a living. As disability claim attorneys, we can tell you that a huge percentage of the cases we handle involve anxiety and similar mental disorders.
Those suffering from anxiety may be eligible for important forms of disability benefits, including benefits under federal programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You may also have a claim under an individual disability policy or an employer-sponsored long-term disability plan.
If you believe your disability benefits for anxiety were wrongly denied, do not hesitate to contact us. Whether your denial came from your insurance company, the SSA, or the VA, we can help you appeal and win your rightful benefits. The most important thing you can do is to stand firm and not give up. This is a time when skilled attorneys can legally intervene to overturn the denial and secure your compensation.
Why Are Disability Benefits for Anxiety So Often Denied?
The primary reason for denial is the subjective nature of anxiety disorders. With few exceptions, visual-based medical imaging tests like MRIs, CT scans, x-ray, PET scans, and ultrasound cannot decisively document the existence of an anxiety disorder.
Claims examiners have to base their decisions on treatment notes from psychologists, psychiatrists, and other therapists, to agree (or disagree) with your doctor’s diagnosis and to assess the severity of your condition in terms of your ability to work.
How Can I Get Social Security to Approve Disability Benefits for Anxiety?
To receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for anxiety, you must prove that your condition is totally disabling. This means proving your impairment renders you unable to perform gainful employment. This is a major difference as compared to a private insurance policy or veterans’ disability compensation, as these will allow for partial disability benefits.With each disability claim, SSA follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. Basically, you must prove total disability in one of two ways:
- by meeting SSA’s stringent medical criteria as listed in SSA’s Listing of Impairments, or
- by meeting SSA’s medical-vocational guidelines.
Social Security’s medical criteria for claiming disability benefits for anxiety disorders are found in the Listing of Impairments for Mental Disorders, subsection §12.06 Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders.
The SSA Listing deals with a group of mental disorders which have anxiety as the essential feature. The spectrum of disorders the SSA evaluates under this category include:
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Illness Anxiety Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Phobic disorders, including Simple Phobia, Social Phobia, and Agoraphobia, and
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
These disorders are generally characterized by (1) excessive anxiety, worry, apprehension, and fear, or (2) the avoidance of feelings, thoughts, activities, objects, places, or people.
Does Your Condition Meet or Equal SSA’s Medical Listing for Anxiety?
Your anxiety symptoms must “meet or equal” the following criteria of either A and B or A and C, below:
A. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraphs 1, 2, or 3:
- Anxiety disorder, characterized by three or more of the following;
- Easily fatigued;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Muscle tension; or
- Sleep disturbance.
2. Panic disorder or agoraphobia, characterized by one or both:
- Panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences; or
- Disproportionate fear or anxiety about at least two different situations (for example, using public transportation, being in a crowd, being in a line, being outside of your home, being in open spaces).
3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, characterized by one or both:
- Involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts; or
- Repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety.
B. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
- Understand, remember, or apply information
- Interact with others
- Concentrate, persist or maintain pace
- Adapt or manage oneself
C. Your anxiety is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder for at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.
In reality, few anxiety disability claims prove disability to the extent that the medical listing is satisfied.
However, these same claimants often succeed in winning disability benefits for anxiety through the combination of medical and vocational factors. SSA calls this the medical-vocational allowance.
Does Your Anxiety Disorder Fulfill SSA’s Medical-Vocational Allowance?
When you cannot meet or medically equal a listing, SSA will evaluate your residual functional capacity (RFC). This is determined via mental and/or physical assessments. This function-by-function evaluation considers your ability to perform work-related activities. The SSA wants to understand whether you have the functional capacity to do sustained work for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
It is important in these cases that the decision-maker considers all of your impairment-related mental and physical limitations and evidence submitted in your claim. For example, the SSA should consider the side effects of medications that reduce alertness, concentration, or stamina, thus limiting your ability to engage in non-exertional or exertional work.
The importance of a fully documented claim cannot be overstated. Your claim should include:
- Mental health case files;
- Written statements from your psychiatrist, or mental health counselor/therapist confirming your disability;
- Mental health records as well as physical health records;
- Written testimony from co-workers, family, and friends that explain how your anxiety is impeding your ability to function;
- Your personal account to a qualified mental health specialist of how your anxiety disorder affects your life on a daily basis.
- Proof of ongoing, long-term treatment as prescribed by your doctor, including medications, counseling, therapy, and other regular treatment.
Getting Representation Is the Best Thing You Can Do.
As Social Security Disability lawyers, we help our clients submit the strongest possible initial claims with the information SSA needs to correctly assess each claimant’s specific anxiety disorder. If your disability benefits for anxiety have been denied, we can represent you on appeal. There is a four-stage appeals process including a request for reconsideration; a benefits hearing; an appeal to the SSA review board and finally an appeal to federal court.
The biggest mistake people make after SSDI denials is they don’t file an appeal or don’t file it in time. The truth is that the majority of applicants that do appeal their case properly, end up winning.
We have helped many clients who suffer from anxiety and other mental health disorders obtain their rightful disability benefits for anxiety disorders. With Marc Whitehead & Associates, you will have a strong advocate on your side.
Long Term Disability Benefits for Anxiety
Disability claims based on anxiety may be met with skepticism from insurance companies. Due to its subjective nature, severe anxiety is often misunderstood or minimized. If your long-term disability claim was denied, we will develop your case to be in the absolute best position to win on appeal.
Insurance claims examiners routinely deny disability benefits for anxiety due to a lack of objective medical evidence and insufficient treatment history. Insurers may also be quick to undermine a claimant’s credibility, taking the view that a claimant is malingering, meaning someone is faking or exaggerating their symptoms.
Most claimants who suffer from anxiety and other mental health challenges don’t know that most group disability policies and many individual policies will limit all mental disorders to two years of benefits. If benefits are granted, insurers will use the “mental/nervous limitation” to terminate benefits.
An attorney who frequently takes on billion-dollar insurance companies in settlements and lawsuits is essential to producing an appeal strong enough to reverse a denial and win benefits. Likewise, lawyers who are not familiar with disability insurance laws, policies, and the issues of the disorder itself, will not always understand what has to be proved.An experienced lawyer will anticipate unreasonable denial tactics and deal squarely with medical and vocational experts. Your attorney must be able to argue legal regulations and appear before the federal judicial system. A good law firm is going to make things easy for you, and the insurance company will know they cannot run over you.
Can Veterans Get Disability Benefits for Anxiety?
Yes, the VA considers anxiety to be a disability. Our VA-accredited lawyers handle disability compensation claims for military veterans across the U.S. who must now deal with anxiety and other mental health problems. According to a 2017 paper prepared by the DoD’s Deployment Health Clinical Center, anxiety disorders rose dramatically from 2005 to 2016 for active duty servicemen and women.
The VA uses two references to assess anxiety and reach a rating determination:
- For diagnosis, VA relies on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) published by the American Psychiatric Association, and
- For rating purposes, VA relies on the Mental Disorder Criteria in the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD).
First, you must have a current diagnosis of anxiety. Next, you must show evidence of an in-service event, injury, or illness. Finally, you’ll need to provide a medical nexus linking the diagnosed anxiety disorder to the in-service event.
Service connection for anxiety may also be established on a secondary basis. This occurs when another condition – such as tinnitus, chronic back pain, or migraines – aggravates or causes your anxiety.
Ratings for anxiety can range from 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% depending upon the frequency, severity, and duration of your symptoms. The VA frequently underrates claims for anxiety disorders, either because the evidence supporting the severity requirement was insufficient, or because the VA disregarded the evidence supporting the severity.
Don’t let this deter you from either applying for disability or challenging the VA after a denial or low rating.
If you are unsatisfied with your rating decision or need assistance with your claim, call to discuss your options and how we can assist. We help our clients establish service connection, prepare for C&P Exams, increase unsatisfactory VA ratings, and handle all matters of veterans’ claim denial.
If you’re fighting anxiety and disability benefits have been denied, we can help.
Anxiety in the workplace is widespread, and when it is chronic, it can become a crippling illness. While anxiety is such a prevalent disability, it is also one of the most difficult to prove.
If you were wrongly denied disability benefits, do not give up. What may seem like a hopeless battle can be fought and won with an experienced and determined legal team at your side.Talk to our attorneys about your claim today—ask us questions and get accurate answers, in a free and confidential legal consultation. Wherever you live, we can help.