How does the SSA Evaluate Emotional Stress in a Claim?

An application for Social Security Disability (SSD) can be entirely based on a disabling, stress related disorder, or can have an emotional stress component which exacerbates a physical disability. In either case, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will want to see specific documentation in your application related to the emotional stress condition you have. They will also apply standard evaluation criteria when examining your claim for SSD benefits. Following is the basic information required for receiving SSD and some details of the evaluation criteria the SSA utilizes in determining eligibility for benefits.

Basic Criteria

Emotional stress SSD claims fall under the category of mental disorders according to the SSA. For an SSD claim in this category to meet eligibility requirements, it must show:

  • A disability which can be medically determined – which can, in other words, be proven through medical means;
  • A significant degree of impairment which results from the condition, including affecting the applicant’s ability to work;
  • Have lasted for at least 12 months or be expected to last a year or longer.

Emotional Stress Claim Categories

While there are a number of different categories for disability claims under the umbrella of “mental disorders”, emotional stress SSD claims usually fall under either anxiety-related disorders or personality disorders. Of these two subcategories, anxiety-related disorders is the most common.

Essential Documentation for Your Claim

Any SSD claim requires substantial medical documentation supporting the argument that the applicant’s condition is truly disabling. This is true even with emotional stress claims. In other words, the SSA wants to see specific documentation of appropriate medical tests and treatments. Evidence that available treatments have not reduced the severity of the disability is also required.

Specific Diagnosis

When evaluating emotional stress SSD claims, the SSA looks specifically for a definitive diagnosis of a recognized mental disorder. Essentially, this means your claim for SSD must show you’ve been diagnosed with a particular stress-related condition that is well established and recognized in the medical community.

Severity of Condition

Additionally, the SSA evaluates emotional stress related claims for disability benefits by looking at the severity of the condition, the symptoms it causes and the limitations it places on your ability to work, get along with other people, deal with everyday home and work-related stressors and activities, and other details like your ability to care for yourself, go out in public, or perform other essential activities.

Physician Statements

Statements from treating physicians are always important in any SSD claim. They are especially important in emotional stress claims for disability benefits. You will need to include Medical Source Statements from any doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or therapist you’ve seen, in addition to including all of your medical records in your application. Medical records should include physical and psychological evaluations and tests you’ve undergone.

Standard Treatments and Results

The SSA also looks for detailed records showing the kinds of treatments you’ve received and the affect those treatments have had on your condition. If there are certain forms of therapy, medication or other treatment options which typically show improvement in patients with your condition, the SSA will want to see you’ve undergone those treatments and that they’ve not improved your condition.