Monday, December 16, 2013

The Significance of "Episodes of Decompensation" in Mental Illness Cases

If you or someone you love is applying for Social Security Disability due to a mental health condition, it is likely that you might have heard the term: "episodes of decompensation".  This is an important term that it usually used in determining whether a claimant meets the listing for conditions such as:
  • schizophrenia
  • anxiety
  • bipolar disorder, or
  • depression.
The term episodes of decompensation refers to a point when a person's mental health deteriorates after previously being able to deal or manage the condition.  It is fair to say that an episode of the decompensation occurs when a mental health patient experiences a crisis or a sharp decline in their ability to function.   

It is important to properly document any episodes of decompensation experienced by a person who is seeking disability benefits.  Creating proper documentation of these episodes is perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by Social Security Disability lawyers.  In many instances, we find that friends or relatives of the claimant tell us of an unusual mental health crisis that they witness but then, we find out that no one took the time and effort to document it.  For this reason, it is always beneficial to obtain mental health treatment whenever a claimant's mental health condition worsens.  Seeking medical treatment is the best way to insure that a proper record is generated, describing the specific nature of episode suffered by the claimant.    
As a general rule, a claimant must suffer an average of three episodes of decompensation in a year in order to meet the mental health listing.  Each one of these episodes should last at least two weeks.  However, the number of episodes required is not a 'black and white" type of rule.  Social Security will look at each case separately depending on the severity and duration of each episode and could grant disability benefits even when the specific requirements are not met.