Questions About SSI and Eligibility

Reader’s Question

I’m a 28-year-old male. I recently began to notice a certain pattern of things in my life, such as no meaningful, deep and long-lasting friendships and relationships, no consistency in my personal life and no ability to hold a job. I haven’t worked for over 2 years, just odd jobs here and there. I have been feeling empty, hopeless, helpless, have no desire to interact with others, and always seem to choose to be alone. I am a loner and have no desire for anything and no life meaning or joy for life. I have severe mood swings and thoughts of negative and positive thoughts. I had the same feelings from childhood but didn’t understand or realize what I was feeling.

Based on some pre-screening and research online, I seem to have a variety of mental conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome, bipolar, severe depression, schizoid, avoidant and borderline personality disorders. The problem I have is that I tried contacting the local community mental clinic but unfortunately I’m too “normal” for them to treat me without cost, since I don’t have medical coverage.

Is there any way to get diagnosed correctly for qualification of mental disability? Seems like it’s a cycle in which I need a doctor to treat me in order to support my disability claim which I can’t seem to get until I get medical coverage thru SSI-disability. Could you recommend or suggest where I can turn to for screening/evaluation for the time being…and possible treatment with SSI approval?

Psychologist’s Reply

The Social Security Administration that provides the SSI funding has a program for evaluation and assessment of all applicants. (Editor’s Note: SSI = Supplemental Security Income.) When applying for SSI, individuals with no prior treatment history will be referred for examination to a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist — depending upon what disability they report. In your case, part of the application for SSI might be an examination by a psychologist or psychiatrist. SSI pays for these examinations although they are not for treatment purposes, only eligibility purposes.

The requirements for SSI eligibility are pretty difficult. If you have been determined too “normal” for treatment at the community mental health center, you will probably find that your conditions are not disabling enough for SSI. As an example, SSI will not accept any of the symptoms you mentioned as a disability even though they may make employment difficult for you. If you have been able to obtain odd jobs, that’s additional evidence that you are employable. Honestly, I think focusing on SSI funding for treatment will be a dead end for you.

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Instead of SSI, you may be able to obtain mental health treatment through your local public welfare department — obtaining a temporary medical card. Many areas in the US have Community Action programs that also provide free clinics. You may also be eligible for services provided by your state’s Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation — a state-funded program to help folks obtain vocational training and treatment. Your question is very articulate and tells me you would be a candidate for a variety of training and job placements.

While SSI may seem like a temporary solution, it’s actually waiting for a band-aid that will probably not show up anyway. Focusing on SSI may put your life on hold for many months and even years, only to be denied benefits. At your age, you need to focus on getting “online” with life — work, training, education, etc.

I might add that I’m a consultant for the Social Security Administration, and my opinion is based on over twenty-five years working with SSI applications and appeals.

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