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Social Security Disability and Bipolar Disorder

Speaking from Experience


Updated June 10, 2014

Part 1: Can I get Social Security Disability for my Bipolar Disorder?

Advice from the About Bipolar Disorder Forum Community members about applying for and getting Disability payments for manic depression.

Please be aware that this material contains the personal experiences and opinions of consumers and in no way should be construed as professional advice. To read more, please follow one of the links that precede each quote.

Quotes may have been edited by the Guides for spelling, grammar or clarity.

Question from Tazmond57
I used to be able to work without any problem. Then I injured my back and then became diagnosed with BP. After previously being able to stay in high stress, people packed LONG TERM employment, I can no longer do that. I have trouble dealing with people and am becoming more and more isolated. From 1987 to 1995 I only had 2 jobs. Since my injury and diagnosis I've had at least 8 and have trouble lasting more than 7 months. The stress of dealing with people is too much for me even though I used to love working with people. I also have problems staying professional and even tempered under stress, and that used to be my forte. Others always appreciated my coolness and clearheadedness during stress. I'm not working now because it was too much for me, but I have a son to get through college. Does anyone know what I need to do to get disability or if I even qualify?

Answer from Way
I believe the first thing that would benefit you is to talk this over with your Psych doc or your therapist to find out what the first step would be. They are the ones who would provide paperwork on the dx present and future to whatever state program you'll need. Also call your state's disability office and ask for a pamphlet on state disability and Social Security Insurance (SSI?). In this manner you'll be a mite wiser about procedures or what you can expect. I've been on SSI for 3 years now.

Answer from Holly
The truth is that SS disability is a long process, but your best ally will be the staff of SS and you doctor. Call the local social security office and talk to a representative, make an appointment, and compile your documents if you have any. An initial interview will be done with a SS representative. This begins the process which will probably be long. Most everybody is denied the first round. Usually this automatically leads to an appeal. However, in my case, my lawyer filed a request for preliminary review before an actual court hearing. My case was approved for benefits without going to a hearing before a judge, but this took two years.

SS will also pay up to $4000 (I think) in legal fees. Interview lawyers and don't limit your search to you own area. I lived in rural NM while this process went on and my lawyers were in Boston. As is all too often the case, the name on the letterhead matters. If you don't have any other sources, I can supply you the lawyers who worked with me. (My biggest problem with them is how young everybody was, but then that more and more the case everywhere).

Also key is your dr and his/her willingness to answer promptly inquiries and responding in writing to SS required reviews. This is very important.

More from Holly
Wherever you live, there has to be a legal aid or Legal Referral service, maybe the state office, etc. Use the phone book. Talk to anybody listed as an SS advocate, just don't make a commitment (i.e., sign anything) until you completely understand what is going on. Also, you are the best judge of the people involved; do you like/trust them? Ask for references and then CALL THOSE REFERENCES. It is critical to follow through.

From KS
Yes, you can get SSDI for bipolar disorder. It is a long, difficult process that takes months or even years. You usually get denied the first time and then have to proceed to a hearing. It always helps to retain an attorney and to have a psychiatrist knowledgeable in these proceedings to fill out the necessary paperwork. Getting SSDI is not a walk in the park, but it is possible.

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