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Federal reform proposals validate the severity of mental illness

If any insight can be gleaned from the senseless and tragic school shootings in Connecticut, it might be that mental health issues should be taken seriously.

At least two federal lawmakers agree that reforms to America’s mental health system are needed. Republican Rep. Tim Murphy and Democratic Rep. Ron Barber have each proposed new mental health bills in the U.S. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the bills may actually be competing with each other. That might result in partisan gridlock, at the expense of overdue reforms.

Although the prospect of mental health reforms may be uncertain, that delay should not influence an individual who is no longer able to perform his or her work duties because of a metal health condition. After paying into the system for years through payroll deductions, a worker should be able to benefit from programs like Social Security disability insurance, and an application on the basis of a mental disability can be every bit as deserving as other physical impairments or illnesses.

Yet just as some individuals with a mental health issue might not realize the severity of their condition, so too might workers underestimate the long-term functional impairment that can result from a mental disability. Although some workers may be uncomfortable seeking out mental health treatments, an attorney who focuses on disability benefits knows that creating a record of medical evidence will be necessary if an individual decides to apply for SSDI benefits at a later date. In fact, seeking psychiatric or other medical help earlier, rather than later, is really a win-win proposition: It may result in an earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments. 

Source: USA Today, “Congressmen introduce competing mental health bills,” Liz Szabo, May 8, 2014

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