Mabry v. Colvin: Social Security Disability for Mental Illness

Mabry v. Colvin, a federal disability case from the United States Court of Appeals for Eighth Circuit, involved a claimant who filed for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

1078874_word_work_on_the_dices-300x214Claimant initially filed for disability benefits in March 2011, claiming he was disabled and thus unable to work due to a combination of ailments. He claimed he was not able to work due to having paranoid schizophrenia, anxiety with panic attacks, morbid obesity and depression.  His educational history consisted of graduating from high school and going to college for a year before dropping out due to his anxiety and depression.

As for his employment history, claimant has worked as a cook at a local bowling alley, a farmhand, a prep cook at another restaurant and a roofer. When a claimant files an application for SSDI benefits with the United States Social Security Administration, he or she is best served by including as much supporting documentation as possible.

In this case, claimant included documentation that he had been routinely treated for mental health conditions in 2004 and continuing through the time he filed for benefits and was going through the appeals process.  He established that he had been treated several times for suicidal thoughts and ideations, and he had been prescribed variety of psychiatric pharmaceuticals for depression and schizophrenia with a paranoia.

He was treated during this time, but in the notes of his medical records, it indicated that his suicidal ideations were only mild.  Despite this being a seemingly strange thing to write in a medical record, it was something the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) latched onto when he decided claimant was able to perform unskilled work and was thus not disabled.

At one point during his therapy sessions, he was able to discuss what he needed to do to get a new job and was not self-reporting having any delusions at that time. One of the things that many people do not realize is that there are problems when it comes to self-reporting of hallucinations. It is not generally like we see in the movies, where a person is fighting with an invisible enemy and it is obvious to everyone around that the person is hallucinating.

In reality, many people with paranoid schizophrenia will believe that people are out to get them, and they may even believe incredible things, but they are not always willing to share those beliefs, even in therapy.

After being denied for Social Security disability benefits, he filed for an appeal with the United States Circuit Court for the Eighth Circuit.  The court looked at how the ALJ determined claimant’s ability to still perform work despite being disabled.  This is known as a residual functioning capacity (RFC) and is typically calculated by a so-called vocational expert (VE).  A VE uses a book called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) to determine if a claimant is able to work, despite this book having been written in the 1970s and being largely outdated.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Mabry v. Colvin, March 3, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Social Security Disability Claims Process, Jan. 23, 2015, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Lawyer Blog

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