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To find a Soc Sec Atty:  the National Organization of Social Security
Claimants Representatives.  Their toll-free number is 1-800-431-2804, or
call (201) 444-1415, or visit their web site at

Here is a good one near Kansas City that covers about 5 surrounding States
including IL.
Below From:

73 W. Lewis Ave., Milan, MI 48160
Phone:  (734) 439-4055.  Fax: 439-4056


By Martha A. Churchill

Some individuals with mental illness are not aware of their own behaviors
and symptoms. The person realizes he or she cannot work, but does not
understand exactly why.  This makes it difficult for someone with a mental
illness to obtain benefits.

It's hard for you to prove you are disabled when you don't even realize what
your behaviors are, and how you affect others.

That's why it is so important for friends, family, and former employers to
write letters and reports about you. They notice the things you do or say
that don't fit in at the employment scene.  Statements from the people who
know you best are important to your Social Security claim.  Observations
from your family can carry a lot of weight and make a big difference for the
success of your claim.

Your doctor is a key person when you are trying to prove your disability to
the Social Security Administration.  A doctor's report carries more weight
if your doctor knows you well, and has been treating you for a long time.

A psychiatrist or psychologist is the best type of doctor to write a report
about your disability. A family practitioner is okay, but a specialist is
better.  Your psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist should be helping
you with your Social Security claim by writing a suitable letter explaining
your symptoms and behaviors, in detail.

Anyone who is around you frequently, and knows you well, can write a report
or come to your hearing and explain what problems you have interacting with
other people. For example, maybe you isolate yourself for hours at a time
when you feel stressed, but you don't realize you do this. Your friends or
family might notice this. Information of this type is extremely helpful when
you are trying to prove that you are disabled due to mental illness.

Some people think that if they have a diagnosis such as "depression" or
"schizophrenia," the Social Security Administration will automatically grant
benefits. That is not true. You can't get benefits just because you have a
label like "schizophrenia." First, you have to prove that your illness is
severe enough to stop you from working.

There is a "Catch 22" here. Because of your illness, you have trouble
realizing what the problems are that you have in the workplace, and you don'
t know how to explain it. But if you are too good at writing reports and
expressing yourself, the Social Security judge will think that you are
capable of getting a job. So, you need other people to talk or write about
your difficulties. It isn't pleasant to hear these things about yourself,
but it has to be done if you want to receive Social Security benefits or

As a general rule, for people with psychiatric disabilities, having an
attorney or other representative is a must.

There are four main areas of functioning that are considered by the Social
Security judge in deciding whether your illness is severe enough to prevent
you from working: (a) daily living, (b) social functioning, (c)
concentration, and (d) decompensation. (see chart.)

If you have bipolar disorder, major depression, phobias, agoraphobia,
Tourette Syndrome, obsessions, compulsions, or panic attacks, you must prove
that you have problems in at least two of the four areas of functioning.

If you have somatoform disorder or a personality disorder, Social Security
requires you to have serious problems in three of the four areas.


(a) Daily living skills
Activities of daily living include cooking, cleaning, and laundry. It
includes getting dressed, brushing your teeth, going to the grocery store,
and paying your rent on time. If you need reminders to do those kinds of
tasks, or just don't do them, you have "marked restriction of activities of
daily living." That is important in proving that your mental illness
prevents you from working.

Social functioning
Social functioning means knowing how to say the right thing, and when.
Evictions, firings, fear of strangers, and social isolation are important
signs that you can't work. Are you unable to start up a conversation? Do you
make rude remarks-- or "clam up" and don't speak to others? Can you get
along okay with family, neighbors, and the landlord? Can you get things done
with a group of people? How do you act with people in authority? Those
social skills are necessary to work, no matter what the job.

(c) Concentration, persistence, or pace
If you can't complete tasks in a timely manner, that shows you have a
deficiency in your "pace." Lots of people start a project and don't finish
it, especially with a hobby. But if you start important projects and never
finish them, because your mind wanders, then you have a significant
deficiency in concentration and you can't work.

  (d) Episodes of deterioration or decompensation
Decompensation means that you withdraw from the situation when you feel
stress, or perhaps you "blow up" all of a sudden when things aren't going
right. Do you go into a tailspin sometimes, and lose your cool?  Does this
happen even when you are trying to be on your best behavior?  Any
exacerbation of your signs and symptoms is an "episode" that keeps you from
working.  Having episodes like that, repeatedly, is a sure sign that you can
't function at work.

For schizophrenia, the criteria is a little bit more complicated. Delusions,
hallucinations, or illogical thinking could help prove you can't work.
Emotional withdrawal could be a factor. If you have problems in two of the
four areas, that could show disability. Or, you could show that you can't
function outside a highly supportive living situation, and that it's been
that way for at least two years.

Conclusion: To prove that you are disabled, the Social Security office needs
to know all about your behavior as it relates to the four areas of
functioning. Your doctor has to write a letter or report that explains
whatever problems you are having in these areas. The doctor has to give
specific examples, and go into detail. Show your doctor this chart about the
Four Areas of Functioning. Make sure he or she has written a report that
discusses your problems in a way that will be understood at the Social
Security office.

For a look at the complete Social Security rules for mental illness, check
the "Listing."  This listing has a wide variety of mental conditions
covered, including personality disorders, mental retardation, and panic
attacks.  For your convenience, I have added a few comments in brackets
[like this] to help you navigate.  The first half of this listing is an
essay on mental illness generally, and the second half is a list of mental
illnesses with a description, by the number.  Click on  "Listing."

I have prepared summaries of some actual law cases which deal with
"Activities of daily living."

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Martha A. Churchill, Attorney
73 W. Lewis Ave., Milan, MI 48160
Phone:  (734) 439-4055.  Fax: 439-4056 Send e-mail

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"When the way comes to an end, then change - having changed, you pass through."

      I. Ching


 Bruce "Doc". Melson