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SSDI EvaluationDisability Personal Story

Anxiety and Social Security Disability Insurance

Anxiety SSDI GuidelinesHere is an explanation of Social Security's five-step process to determine if an anxiety patient qualifies for SSDI:

1.  Determine if an individual is "working (engaging in substantial gainful activity)" according to the SSA definition. Earning more than $1,040 a month as an employee is enough to be disqualified from receiving Social Security disability benefits.

2.  Conclude the anxiety disability must be severe enough to significantly limit one's ability to perform basic work activities needed to do most jobs. For example:

  • Walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling
  • Seeing, hearing and speaking
  • Understanding/carrying out and remembering simple instructions
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting
3.  Ask if the anxiety disability meets or equals a medical listing. Anxiety is listed under mental disorders. 

In these disorders, anxiety is either the predominant disturbance or it is experienced if the individual attempts to master symptoms; for example, confronting the dreaded object or situation in a phobic disorder or resisting the obsessions or compulsions in obsessive compulsive disorders. 

The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements in both A and C are satisfied.

A. Medically documented findings of at least one of the following:

1. Generalized persistent anxiety accompanied by three out of four of the following signs or symptoms:

a. Motor tension; or

b. Autonomic hyperactivity; or

c. Apprehensive expectation; or

d. Vigilance and scanning; or

2. A persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation which results in a compelling desire to avoid the dreaded object, activity or situation; or

3. Recurrent severe panic attacks manifested by a sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror and sense of impending doom occurring on the average of at least once a week; or

4. Recurrent obsessions or compulsions, which are a source of marked distress; or

5. Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience, which are a source of marked distress;

AND

B. Resulting in at least two of the following:

1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or

2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or

3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace; or

4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

OR

C. Resulting in complete inability to function independently outside the area of one's home.

4.  Explore the ability of an individual to perform work they have done in the past despite their anxiety. If the SSA finds that a person can do his past work, benefits are denied. If the person cannot, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.

5.  Review age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition to determine what other work, if any, the person can perform. To determine anxiety disability, the SSA enlists medical-vocational rules, which vary according to age.


For example, if a person with anxiety would warrant a finding of disabled at any age. The inability to meet any of the basic mental demands of work would entitle a claimant to disability benefits.

Social Security Rulings 85-15 and SSR 96-9p both describe how an individual must, on a sustained basis, be able to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions; make simple work-related decisions; respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers, usual work situations and to deal with changes in a routine work setting.

A substantial loss of ability to meet any one of these basic work-related activities would severely limit the potential occupational base for all age groups and justify a finding of disabled. A person who has a medically determinable severe impairment of anxiety and is unable to understand, remember or carry out simple instructions would be found disabled based on his/her mental residual function capacity.

Check out information regarding the prescription drugs used to treat anxiety.

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