When you have a mental illness that prevents you from being gainfully employed, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can be a critical source of income and medical coverage — if you can qualify for them.
It definitely won’t help your case if you’re accused of faking the severity of your condition (or faking your condition completely). This is known as “malingering.”
Because there’s a political spotlight on fraud and waste in the Social Security program, examiners are always on the watch for anybody who might be claiming to have condition they don’t have. Claims regarding mental illness are particularly suspect in the minds of many examiners because they often rely on “soft” evidence (your reported symptoms) as opposed to “hard” evidence (like lab reports and x-rays).
How can you protect yourself against accusations that you’re lying about your condition? Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Don’t exaggerate your symptoms when you describe them to your doctor. Most people with mental health problems have bad days and good days. It’s not only okay to tell your doctor that your symptoms come and go, it’s likely to sound much more honest than saying that you are “always” suffering from a panic attack or “always” depressed.
- Participate fully in any mental health testing that your psychologist or psychiatrist wants to perform. Mental health tests have fail-safes that are designed to show if someone is exaggerating or just not giving the test their best effort.
- Be open to treatment suggestions from your doctor. Generally speaking, sick people want to get well again. Being willing to try medication, therapy and even in-patient treatment for your condition can help show the earnestness of your claim.
If you’ve been accused of malingering, you’re probably going to need help with your disability claim. Don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance.