Filing For Disability Benefits For Your Bipolar Teen? Here Are Two Important Tips To Follow

Bipolar diagnosis is becoming more common among teenagers—at least one study indicates that a little more than 2% of teens from the ages of 13 to 18 meet the criteria for diagnosis within a given year. Filing for Social Security disability for your teen can provide income and medical coverage that you desperately need in order to help your teen get treatment, but the process isn't always easy. Here are two important tips to help.

1. Understand that the claim isn't about the diagnosis alone.

The bipolar diagnosis is very important because it gives you and the disability claim examiner someplace to start when discussing the situation. But the diagnosis alone isn't what makes your teen disabled—the real disability lies in how your teen's condition impairs his or her ability to function like other young people within the same age group.

For example, Social Security classifies bipolar disorder as a mood disorder and is looking for a very specific set of criteria that qualifies your child as disabling. Aside from having had a period of either full-blown or partial mania or depression, your child's overall condition needs to be somewhat pervasive, affecting every aspect of his or her life. The examiner is looking for specific symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, hallucinations, paranoia, and self-destructive behavior that's not recognized as such, among other things. This makes it very important to describe your teen's individual symptoms, rather than relying on the claim examiner to understand the situation. Keep in mind that bipolar disorder can range from a relatively mild condition to one that is highly destructive and difficult to control, even with medication.

2. Stress the differences between your child and other children of the same age.

When adults are evaluated for disability, the primary question is, "Can this person work in spite of his or her impairment?" Since teens aren't generally expected to work, the primary question is different. The claim examiner is going to ask, "Can this child function the same way that other children his or her age function?"

This is where you can win or lose your case. The more specific that you can paint a picture of the situation for the examiner, the better your chances of being approved. For example, if your bipolar teen can't be left alone because he or she has tried to commit suicide, explain to the examiner that you have to hire a babysitter to watch your teen—even though other teens his or her age can be left alone. If he or she was belligerent to teachers and had to be put in tutoring or taken out of a brick and mortar school in order to finish high school online, explain what led to the decision.

If you're having difficulty getting approval for Social Security benefits for your bipolar teen, don't give up. You teen may need to rely on those benefits well into adulthood in order to get the care that he or she needs until a successful treatment can be found. Instead, talk to an attorney, such as Prediletto, Halpin, Scharnikow & Nelson, P.S., for help. He or she can help you present your case so that Social Security is able to meet the checklist that will allow them to entitle your teen to benefits.