Dei: Welcome to Pennsylvania Law TV. Today we will be discussing Social Security Disability benefits and mental illness. If you have a severe mental disability, day to day life can often be frustrating and overwhelming. Everyday tasks that others take for granted such as getting out of bed or interacting with people at the store can be too much to handle. Often times you might not be able to support yourself financially. Luckily our government has a Social Security Disability program designed to assist individuals who are unable to work due to physical or mental limitations. My guest is Social Security Disability Attorney Valeen Hykes and she is going to talk with us about this topic. So Valeen, thanks for being here today.

Valeen: Thank you.

Dei: Well Valeen, someone has been diagnosed with a mental illness, are they automatically eligible for Social Security Disability benefits?

Valeen: No, there are actually a couple of ways you can become eligible for SSD benefits and one of them is by meeting a listing that Social Security has set forth for certain diagnoses, such as maybe bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety. I actually can’t tell you that all of them have a listing but those are some of the conditions that we do see come through. If there is not a listing that they meet or equal then another way that they can potentially get benefits is by the general standard which is basically by being able to prove that they are unable to do their past work or any other work that they can be found in significant numbers in the national economy.

Dei: Okay and you mentioned a list. What if the individuals mental illness is not on the list, does that mean they are automatically ineligible for disability benefits?

Valeen: No it doesn’t. Actually what that means is if they don’t meet or equal a listing then they can still fall back into that general standard which is basically being unable to perform substantial activity at a job that can be found in significant numbers in the national economy and that would be the general standard.

Dei: Say that someone has been diagnosed with depression by a doctor but not a psychologist or psychiatrist, will that affect their claim?

Valeen: It could. I always recommend that if somebody has a condition such as that that they do see a specialist and I always say the specialist is best. They are the ones that can properly diagnose and properly treat the mental conditions.

Dei: Okay if an individual doesn’t take a prescribed medication for their mental illness because they can’t afford it, will that affect their application?

Valeen: It could and again it all really comes down to credibility and it’s going to be a matter of doctors support and whether they have the proper medical support and then also credibility. let’s say in front of the judge, if they are in front of the judge it all depends how the judge will look at that. Sometimes they do take into consideration that the person does not have the financial means to get the treatment, but of course it’s always best if you’re following your doctor’s advice and seeking the treatment that they’ve recommended.

Dei: And what if someone’s application is denied what steps should they take?

Valeen: If they are denied I recommend appealing as soon as possible. You do have 60 days at the initial application stage to file an appeal and there is also another 60 days at the administrative law judge if they are denied they also have an appeal period there where they must appeal as well.

Dei: Valeen if someone has specific questions about Social Security Disability benefits how can they reach your office?

Valeen: They can reach us at www.OConnorLaw.com or by telephone at 1800 518 4Law.

Dei: Great. Valeen, thank you so much for your time today.

Valeen: Thank you so much.

Dei: Until next time this is Dei Lynam for Pennsylvania Law TV.