Like with all disabilities, the brutality of mental illness is how impossible it is to articulate the pain one feels.

A person’s ability to complete basic work activities is limited by the psychological symptoms from many psychological disorders. Often these symptoms are managed by psychotropic medications and consistent therapy with a licensed professional counselor (LPC), or licensed counselor and social worker (LCSW).

For many of you, a never-ending spiral of conflict with coworkers and the public may have caused you to lose a job in the past. For many others, the side effects of medications and the frequency of treatment also caused them to be terminated from one or more jobs.

Regardless of your exact diagnosis, the medical evidence you need to build a strong case for psychological disability is one of (A) compliance, (B) frequency, and (C) breakthrough symptoms. Compliance indicates you are taking your medication as prescribed. Frequency means you are seeing a therapist and/or psychiatrist at frequency and regular intervals. Breakthrough symptoms means that these professionals can see and observe with their own eyes that your psychological symptoms are not completely controlled–and they wrote down those observations.

Based on representing thousands of clients with mental health illnesses, a strong case involving this medical condition typically charts the following course:

  1. Compliance: Take your medications every day. Find a system to make this work for you.(If the SSA sees any signs of non-compliance in your medical records, then they will severely discount the severity of this condition.)
  2. Go see your psychiatrist every 1-2 months (ideally not telemedicine).
  3. Go see your therapist 1-2 times every month (ideally not telemedicine).
  4. Symptoms: Talk to both of these providers about specific challenges in your life and difficulties you are having. Do not hold anything back.
  5. Symptoms: Be sure to focus on the specific symptoms that would impact your ability to do simple low skill work. For example, sexual dysfunction doesn’t really help your case, but problems maintaining relationships will.
  6. Side Effects:  Always tell your doctors about the specific side effects of medications, even if they can’t do anything about the side effects. If it’s not documented in your record, then the SSA won’t consider it.)
  7. Medical Opinion: Ask your mental health providers to complete a treating source statement (your Case Manager can send you a copy).

written by: Jacob Hugentobler, Hearing Attorney

Image Credit: Jan Ross P. Sakian, How Can We Change Minds About Health, Texas Public Radio (08/19/2018), available at