What are they?
The term “organic mental disorders” has generally been replaced by the term “neurocognitive disorders.” As doctors were beginning to classify problems with memory, thinking and behavior, they drew a line between conditions with a biological cause (“organic”) and conditions with a psychological cause (“functional”). Causes of these disorders can be genetic (Huntington’s disease), infectious (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), or behavioral (repeated traumatic brain injury). Other well-known causes of neurocognitive disorders include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, vascular disease (blood clots or strokes), and Lewy body disease.
What kind of doctor diagnoses them – and how?
These conditions are evaluated by neurologists, neuropsychiatrists, and/or psychiatrists. Healthcare providers may order cranial CT scans, head MRI scans, PET scans, or electroencephalogram. Doctors may also order cognitive tests, neuropsychological tests, neurological evaluation, psychiatric evaluation, physical examination, or tests of blood or spinal fluid.
How does Social Security evaluate them?
Social Security uses its own (pretty strict) definition of disability. The first thing Social Security will evaluate is whether your condition is preventing you from working. If you are working and your gross income (BEFORE taxes) is above the current Substantial Gainful Activity Level, you will be considered NOT disabled – no matter what your diagnosis might be. Second, the Social Security Administration will want to know if your condition is “severe” which means that your condition will keep you out of work for at least 12 months. At the third step, Social Security will determine whether your condition meets or equals any condition in the Listing of Impairments. Neurocognitive disorders are evaluated at Listing 12.02.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an organic mental disorder or a neurocognitive disorder, and you’re thinking about applying for disability benefits, please contact the attorneys at Keller & Keller to evaluate your case.