Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Social Security Disability Benefits

by Ram Meyyappan, Social Security Disability Help

This article was initially published in the Winter 2014 edition of the OCD Newsletter

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Social Security Disability Benefits

If you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), the condition can make it very difficult to maintain full-time work activity. As many as 2 out of 5 individuals with OCD have shown significant occupational impairment and have been unable to work due to psychiatric symptoms.  The inability to maintain an income can quickly cause your financial situation to spiral out of control. Fortunately, in some cases, Social Security Disability benefits can help alleviate some of the financial stress caused by an inability to work due to OCD and related disorders.

There are two disability programs that are run by the Social Security Administration (SSA): Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each program has its own separate technical criteria that you need to meet in order to qualify for benefits.

Qualifying for SSDI Benefits

To qualify for SSDI, you must have earned enough work credits through past work history. As of 2013, you earn one work credit for each $1,160 that you make, up to a maximum of four work credits per year. If you are age 31 or older, you must have worked five of the past ten years to have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. If you are under the age of 31, you must have worked half of the years since turning 21.

Qualifying for SSI Benefits

If you do not have any work credits and cannot qualify for SSDI benefits, you may be able to qualify for SSI benefits. SSI is a needs-based program and you do not need any work credits in order to qualify. You must, however, meet certain income and asset restrictions to qualify for this program. As of 2013, you cannot earn more than $710 per month as an individual or $1,060 per month as a couple. You must also not have household assets exceeding $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple.

Proving Your Disability to the SSA

In addition to meeting the technical requirements of the above-mentioned programs, you must be able to prove to the SSA that you are disabled according to their guidelines in order to qualify for benefits. When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will compare your condition to a listing of conditions that have been established in a publication known as the Blue Book. This Blue Book contains all of the conditions that may qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits, along with the criteria that must be met with each condition.

OCD is evaluated under Section 12.06 of the Blue Book. This section of the book covers anxiety-related disorders. According to this section of the Blue Book, in order to qualify for disability benefits you must be able to prove that:

  • Anxiety is the predominant disturbance
  • That you suffer from generalized persistent anxiety that is accompanied by three of the four following symptoms:
    • “Motor tension” (Chronic body/muscle tension)
    • “Autonomic hyperactivity” (Ongoing difficulties with bouts of nausea, sweating, dizziness, rapid heart rate)
    • “Apprehensive expectation” (Excessive worry about the future)
    • “Vigilance and scanning” (Easily and powerfully startled)
  • That you suffer from persistent irrational fears of a specific activity, object or situation that results in a compelling desire to avoid the dreaded object, activity or situation; or
  • You suffer from recurrent and severe panic attacks that are manifested by a sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror, and sense of impending doom occurring at least once a week; or
  • You suffer from recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are a source of marked distress; or
  • You suffer from recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience, which are a source of marked distress.

You must also be able to prove at least two of the following:

  • You suffer from a marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
  • You suffer from marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
  • You suffer from marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or
  • You suffer from repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

For more information on applying for disability with OCD, please visit: www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online (www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability.htm) or in person at your local Social Security office. When applying for benefits, you will be asked to fill out a number of forms including the Adult Disability Report as well as the actual disability application. Make sure that you fill out each form in its entirety and that you provide very detailed answers. The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be for the SSA to understand how you qualify for disability benefits.

It is important to understand that the SSA denies approximately 60 percent of initial disability applications. If you are among the 60 percent of applicants who are denied during the initial application process, you will need to pursue a disability appeal in order to receive the benefits you may be entitled to. You should also consider hiring a social security attorney or advocate to help you with your disability claim.

For more information, please visit the following website: www.disability-benefits-help.org/blog