Nancy: Today on North Carolina Law TV, David Daggett, Injury and Disability Lawyer form Daggett Shuler Law out of Winston, Salem talks to us about Social Security Disability and Mental Illness.

David: The person with a mental disability or a psychological disability many times they suffer in silence. They’re embarrassed, people don’t understand them. Take for example not too long ago Robin Williams. Beloved comedienne and actor suffered with a terrible mental illness that we had some glimpses of but nobody really understand but yet staggering. We don’t think about it because we can’t see it in another person and that’s the stigma with a psychological or mental illness.

Nancy: That’s on next on this episode of North Carolina Law TV.

Nancy: If you have a severe mental disability day-to-day life can often be frustrating and overwhelming. Everyday tasks that others take for granted such as getting out of bed or interacting with people at the store can be too much to handle. Oftentimes you might not be able to support yourself financially. Luckily our government has a Social Security Disability Program designed to assist individuals who are unable to work due to physical or mental limitations. However the application process for Social Security disability is complicated and the majority of applications are initially denied. This is where an experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer can come in handy.

David Daggett is here today to give us an insider’s look at the world of Social Security Disability Law as it relates to mental illness and to explain how having an attorney on your side can help you through this rather complicated process.

David, thank you for being with us today.

David: Yeah. Thank you, Nancy. It’s good to see you.

Nancy: Good to see you as well. There’s a lot of stigma associated with mental illness and can that make it really difficult to get support?

David: Well, it’s a two-sided stigma, okay? The person with a mental disability or a psychological disability many times they suffer in silence. They’re embarrassed, people don’t understand them, you can’t see inside and take for example not too long ago, Robin Williams. Beloved comedienne and actor suffered with a terrible mental illness that we had some glimpses of but nobody really understand. We’ve got a lot of people that suffer in that way in fact some of the national statistics on depression are just staggering. In the legal profession, you know, upwards of 25% or more of lawyers suffer from diagnosable depression. And this one shocks me, 1 of 11 lawyers, this is from a survey, contemplates suicide at least twice a month. Okay? Yet staggering. It’s like we don’t think about it because we can’t see it in another person and that’s the stigma with a psychological or mental illness.

And there’s a double stigma. There’s a second layer of that is in your introduction you talked about the government’s Social Security Disability Program. I’m going to correct you. That’s a little bit of a misnomer. We pay insurance for Social Security Disability, okay? Your paycheck every month there’s that line that says FICA that nobody knows where it goes, that’s an insurance program for disability insurance through the federal government. It’s just like having life insurance and you pay a life insurance premium you expect that benefit and you don’t feel bad about getting that benefit because you’ve paid for it all these year.

Nancy: And you are paying this benefit.

David: You’re paying this. If your car is damaged you turn it to your insurance company and you expect them to pay it. You’ve paid an insurance premium for Social Security Disability, you turn it in, you should expect it to be paid.

Nancy: So whether it’s automatically taken out of your paycheck or you write a check every month for it you still are doing the same thing. You’re still putting money into an insurance program in case something happens.

David: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. So, that’s why Social Security Disability works the mental ad psychological disabilities are very, very real they’re just difficult for other people to believe which means you have to have proper workup, proper testing, and make sure that you can document that illness so that you can prove the disability so you can get the disability benefits that you’re entitled to and you so desperately need to take care of you and your family.

Nancy: So you say you should document this but tell us a little bit about how they decide whether you are eligible for disability benefit from a mental illness.

David: Well, it’s very simple and very complicated. So get disability benefits you have to be disabled from any gainful employment for a period of 12 months or longer. It just means you can’t find a job for 12 months or longer and you have to prove that. And then with a metal or psychological disability you have to prove that that condition is what prevents you from working, okay? So that’s how it works. And if you prove that then you’re entitled to those benefits.

Now, in just across the board disability cases over 70% of initial applications are denied with disability in general. That’s probably even higher for mental illness or psychological problems. So it’s very, very tough, you’ve got that little stigma and barrier you have if you’re suffering with that condition it can make it very, very difficult. That’s why you need experienced help to handle that claim for you. And I said it’s very simple but at the same time it’s very complicated. Very hard for any ordinary person to handle that claim on their own because what you’re going into is a legal process that ends up before a judge that most people have no idea what to do.

Nancy: And especially people who have sometimes with mental illness they keep it to themselves for so long that other people don’t know the depth of it and so getting that documentation of whether they’ve seen a therapist, whether they’re taking medication, whether or not taking medication because they can’t afford it, their insurance doesn’t cover it. All these things come in to mind where we wouldn’t know what type of documentation to get.

David: That’s correct. It’s just like any other injury. If you break your arm you go to the doctor and you get proper treatment and proper follow up. If you have a psychological or mental problem or disability just like the broken arm you need to go to the proper healthcare provider, get proper help, get taken care of and that’s your documentation. You’re not manufacturing or creating anything, you’re just doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Nancy: Well that’s good information to know and so even though that double stigma is there it’s something that you are paying into, it’s coming out of your paycheck, and if you don’t have a job for a year and it’s related to that then you need help.

David: You need those benefits for you and for your family and you’re entitled to. You’ve paid for that benefit, you’re entitled to it.

Nancy: And it would surely help. It would surely help. Well thank you so much that’s really good information. Anything else you want to share with us before we go today?

David: Well I just think it’s important for people to have a general awareness of their rights. So if they are disabled they know who to talk to and where to turn to they can get taken care of.

Nancy: That’s great. Thanks so much for being with us today.

David: Thanks for having me here.

Nancy: Appreciate that. If you or someone you know needs assistance with their Social Security Disability Application, you can call David’s office at (336) 724-1234. Until next time, this is Nancy Hollett for North Carolina Law TV.

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