With more than 2 million Americans diagnosed with bipolar, it is unsurprising that Social Security has it listed as one of the common conditions that qualifies for Social Security disability benefits. Unlike physical ailments which can often be proven with an MRI or blood culture, proving disability for mental conditions is subjective. Here is Social Security’s guidelines for what qualifies for disability.

2.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders (see 12.00B3), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

  1. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1 or 2:

Bipolar disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:

    1. Pressured speech;
    2. Flight of ideas;
    3. Inflated self-esteem;
    4. Decreased need for sleep;
    5. Distractibility;
    6. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
    7. Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.


  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
    2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
    4. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
    2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c)

How Do I Prove My Disability

If you cannot work due to your depression, proving disability can be a bit tricky. Social Security is going to need a lot of evidence to determine if your condition is severe enough to warrant disability benefits. Here is a list of what they are looking for:

  1. General.

We need objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source to establish that you have a medically determinable mental disorder. We also need evidence to assess the severity of your mental disorder and its effects on your ability to function in a work setting. We will determine the extent and kinds of evidence we need from medical and nonmedical sources based on the individual facts about your disorder.

  1. Evidence from medical sources.

 We will consider all relevant medical evidence about your disorder from your physician, psychologist, and other medical sources, which include health care providers such as physician assistants, psychiatric nurse practitioners, licensed clinical social workers, and clinical mental health counselors. Evidence from your medical sources may include:

    1. Your reported symptoms.
    2. Your medical, psychiatric, and psychological history.
    3. The results of physical or mental status examinations, structured clinical interviews, psychiatric or psychological rating scales, measures of adaptive functioning, or other clinical findings.
    4. Psychological testing, imaging results, or other laboratory findings.
    5. Your diagnosis.
    6. The type, dosage, and beneficial effects of medications you take.
    7. The type, frequency, duration, and beneficial effects of therapy you receive.
    8. Side effects of medication or other treatment that limit your ability to function.
    9. Your clinical course, including changes in your medication, therapy, or other treatment, and the time required for therapeutic effectiveness.
    10. Observations and descriptions of how you function during examinations or therapy.
    11. Information about sensory, motor, or speech abnormalities, or about your cultural background (for example, language or customs) that may affect an evaluation of your mental disorder.
    12. The expected duration of your symptoms and signs and their effects on your functioning, both currently and in the future.
  1. Evidence from you and people who know you.

 We will consider all relevant evidence about your mental disorder and your daily functioning that we receive from you and from people who know you. We will ask about your symptoms, your daily functioning, and your medical treatment. We will ask for information from third parties who can tell us about your mental disorder, but you must give us permission to do so. This evidence may include information from your family, caregivers, friends, neighbors, clergy, case managers, social workers, shelter staff, or other community support and outreach workers. We will consider whether your statements and the statements from third parties are consistent with the medical and other evidence we have.

  1. Evidence from school, vocational training, work, and work-related programs.

    1. School. You may have recently attended or may still be attending school, and you may have received or may still be receiving special education services. If so, we will try to obtain information from your school sources when we need it to assess how your mental disorder affects your ability to function. Examples of this information include your Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), your Section 504 plans, comprehensive evaluation reports, school-related therapy progress notes, information from your teachers about how you function in a classroom setting, and information about any special services or accommodations you receive at school.
    2. Vocational training, work, and work-related programs.You may have recently participated in or may still be participating in vocational training, work-related programs, or work activity. If so, we will try to obtain information from your training program or your employer when we need it to assess how your mental disorder affects your ability to function. Examples of this information include training or work evaluations, modifications to your work duties or work schedule, and any special supports or accommodations you have required or now require in order to work. If you have worked or are working through a community mental health program, sheltered or supported work program, rehabilitation program, or transitional employment program, we will consider the type and degree of support you have received or are receiving in order to work (see 12.00D).
  2. Need for longitudinal evidence.

    1. General. Longitudinal medical evidence can help us learn how you function over time, and help us evaluate any variations in the level of your functioning. We will request longitudinal evidence of your mental disorder when your medical providers have records concerning you and your mental disorder over a period of months or perhaps years (see 404.1512(d) and 416.912(d) of this chapter).
    2. Non-medical sources of longitudinal evidence. Certain situations, such as chronic homelessness, may make it difficult for you to provide longitudinal medical evidence. If you have a severe mental disorder, you will probably have evidence of its effects on your functioning over time, even if you have not had an ongoing relationship with the medical community or are not currently receiving treatment. For example, family members, friends, neighbors, former employers, social workers, case managers, community support staff, outreach workers, or government agencies may be familiar with your mental health history. We will ask for information from third parties who can tell us about your mental disorder, but you must give us permission to do so.
    3. Absence of longitudinal evidence. In the absence of longitudinal evidence, we will use current objective medical evidence and all other relevant evidence available to us in your case record to evaluate your mental disorder. If we purchase a consultative examination to document your disorder, the record will include the results of that examination (see 404.1514 and 416.914 of this chapter). We will take into consideration your medical history, symptoms, clinical and laboratory findings, and medical source opinions. If you do not have longitudinal evidence, the current evidence alone may not be sufficient or appropriate to show that you have a disorder that meets the criteria of one of the mental disorders listings. In that case, we will follow the rules in 12.00J.
  3. Evidence of functioning in unfamiliar situations or supportive situations.

    1. Unfamiliar situations. We recognize that evidence about your functioning in unfamiliar situations does not necessarily show how you would function on a sustained basis in a work setting. In one-time, time-limited, or other unfamiliar situations, you may function differently than you do in familiar situations. In unfamiliar situations, you may appear more, or less, limited than you do on a daily basis and over time.
    2. Supportive situations. Your ability to complete tasks in settings that are highly structured, or that are less demanding or more supportive than typical work settings does not necessarily demonstrate your ability to complete tasks in the context of regular employment during a normal workday or work week.
    3. Our assessment. We must assess your ability to complete tasks by evaluating all the evidence, such as reports about your functioning from you and third parties who are familiar with you, with an emphasis on how independently, appropriately, and effectively you are able to complete tasks on a sustained basis.

Call a Utah Disability Attorney

If you have bipolar and are unable to work you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Having an experienced social security lawyer represent your claim may make the difference between winning and losing your claim. Call today for your free consultation.



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