SSDI for Borderline Personality DisorderPeople with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The mental disorder is marked by emotional instability and impulsive behavior. This can make it hard for people with BPD to keep a job and maintain a steady income. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book includes borderline personality disorder. But, a diagnosis is often not enough to qualify for benefits on its own. The criteria are complicated, especially with mental conditions like BPD. Hiring an experienced Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) attorney can greatly help with this process. They can offer invaluable insight into how to improve your chances of a successful application. 

Preventing Your Ability to Work

When deciding if an applicant qualifies for disability benefit payments, the SSA considers one main question. They ask whether the disability is so severe that it stops someone from being able to work. Meeting this requirement with a physical disability may seem simpler. With borderline personality disorder, the answer may be more nuanced. 

Many of the most common symptoms of borderline personality disorder can interfere with someone’s ability to work. People with BPD may exhibit extreme personality changes in short periods of time. They may engage in antagonistic behavior with supervisors and coworkers. Sudden emotional outbursts are not conducive to good customer service either. Other symptoms, like intense and inappropriate anger, can make work difficult to impossible too. Struggling to regulate their emotions, people with BPD may not be able to hold down a job. This is why assistance programs like SSDI can be necessary.

Challenges That SSDI Applicants May Face

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a Blue Book listing of qualifying conditions. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is part of the mental disorders section (12.00). It is mentioned in listing 12.08, which describes personality and impulse-control disorders. Other conditions in this category include paranoid, schizoid, avoidant, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

This may seem like good news for SSDI applicants with BPD. It provides at least one path toward receiving disability benefits. The SSA describes personality disorders like BPD as having “enduring, inflexible, maladaptive, and pervasive patterns of behavior.” 

People applying for disability benefits with BPD, though, can face several challenges. A diagnosis on its own doesn’t mean you will qualify automatically. The SSA scrutinizes the duration and severity of symptoms to decide how much they interfere with your ability to work. These symptoms must be expected to last for at least one year. 

Complex Diagnostic Criteria

The SSA includes BPD in its Blue Book. But, the diagnostic criteria for listing 12.08 is very complex. First, you must have medical documentation of a pervasive pattern in at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Distrust and suspiciousness of others
  • Detachment from social relationships
  • Disregard for and violation of the rights of others
  • Instability of interpersonal relationships
  • Excessive emotionality and attention seeking
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Excessive need to be taken care of
  • Preoccupation with perfectionism and orderliness
  • Recurrent, impulsive, aggressive behavioral outbursts

Second, you must also be “extremely” limited in at least one of the following areas of mental functioning. The SSA describes an “extreme limitation” as being unable to function “independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis.” Alternatively, you may be “markedly limited” in at least two of the following. This means you can function independently but at a reduced or inconsistent capacity.

  • Understand, remember, or apply information
  • Interact with others
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
  • Adapt or manage oneself

Inconsistent Treatment History

The very nature of BPD can get in the way of a successful SSDI application. People with the condition can often struggle with routine. Symptoms can be erratic and unpredictable. What’s more, many people with BPD may not be willing to admit they have a problem. As a result, their treatment history can be inconsistent.

They may start and stop therapy frequently. They may also have trouble adhering to medication regimens. This can create gaps in their medical records. The SSA is looking for a consistent pattern of symptoms over at least a 12-month period. The constant flux in BPD treatment can harm an application’s chance of success.  

Limited Objective Medical Evidence

Many claims of physical conditions can be supported through objective medical evidence. A patient may get a blood test, for instance. The results are quantifiable. There are specific numbers for each test. Other tests are also objective and measurable. These may include medical imaging, like X-rays and MRIs. 

Mental, mood, and personality disorders like BPD may not be easily measured and quantified. There may be limited objective medical evidence to support the claim. The SSA looks for a pervasive pattern of behaviors, like detachment from social relationships. But, evidence of these symptoms and behaviors may not be as concrete. 

Possible medical evidence may include a physician’s professional opinion or the results of recognized psychological testing.

Tips for a Successful SSDI Benefits Application

In evaluating an application for SSDI, the SSA goes through a five-step process.

  1. Are you working?
  2. Is your medical condition severe?
  3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a Blue Book listing?
  4. Can you do any of the jobs you have performed in the past 15 years?
  5. Can you do any other type of work?

To improve the chances of qualifying for SSDI with BPD, it is useful to consider these vital tips and insights. 

Consult With an Experienced Disability Lawyer

The SSA has very strict criteria for borderline personality disorder. It can be hard to navigate the application and appeals process. To improve your chances that the SSA will approve your application, hire an experienced SSDI lawyer to help you. The team at Keefe Law is well-versed in the SSDI process. We can help develop a winning strategy so you can get the benefits you deserve.

For instance, BPD often co-exists with other mental health issues. Someone with BPD may also have depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. The SSA looks at the combined effect of all conditions when reviewing cases. Taken together, these conditions may severely impact your ability to work more than BPD alone. This can increase the odds your application will be approved. 

Maintain Consistent Medical Treatment

A common challenge among BPD applicants is their treatment history is inconsistent. They drop in and out of therapy frequently. Their doctors may prescribe medication, but they miss doses or do not stick with the treatment regimen. When the SSA reviews their case, they do not see a persistent and pervasive pattern of maladaptive behavior.

Patients with borderline personality disorder who maintain more consistent medical treatment have a better chance of approval. This shows the SSA that the person is trying their best to manage their symptoms, but they are still unable to work. The SSA may argue that a person with an inconsistent history might be able to work if they stuck with treatment more consistently. 

Gather Detailed Medical Records

The more medical support for your diagnosis, the better. Include any doctor’s notes and medical records, for instance, that support the impact BPD has on your daily functioning. Also, include evidence for any comorbid conditions you may have. If you have undergone any mental status exams or neuropsychological testing, include the test results in your application as well.

A skilled disability attorney can help you with this process. They can recommend what evidence to gather and how to get it. They can also help you package your application and present it in the most desirable light possible. 

Complete Residual Functional Capacity Assessments

Meeting the Blue Book requirements for BPD can be difficult. Even if you meet the criteria, the SSA may still deny your claim. This may be due partly to the challenge of collecting objective medical evidence. To present a stronger case, complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. 

To be completed with your doctors, an RFC exam assesses your ability to work. It considers a wide range of factors, both physical and mental. The assessment offers a conclusion about whether you can perform sedentary, light, medium, heavy, or very heavy work. The context of an RFC assessment may seem physical, like the ability to lift a certain amount of weight. But, it also applies to mental conditions like BPD.

Collect Supporting Evidence

Trusted medical evidence is the backbone of a strong SSDI application. Bolster your case even further by offering other supporting evidence. Statements from former coworkers can help, for example. They can describe patterns of behavior that got in the way of your ability to work effectively. People close to you can offer similar statements describing your daily activity and interactions. 

Keep a Symptom Diary

Coworkers, friends, and family members aren’t the only ones who can help support your case with personal statements. You can offer similar insights yourself too. Just like with Parkinson’s disease and other conditions, a symptom diary can describe how BPD affects your daily life. 

Get Peace of Mind for the Benefits You Deserve

Dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA) can be stressful. The disability application process can be confusing. Knowing what evidence to collect and how to present it can be overwhelming. It’s a lot to handle, and the average person lacks the expertise to approach these issues effectively. An experienced SSDI attorney can handle all the heavy lifting, guiding you through the whole process. Enjoy the peace of mind that your application is in skilled, experienced hands. 

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law