Social Security defines organic mental disorders as abnormalities of a behavioral or psychological nature that are associated with brain dysfunction. Organic mental disorders can be caused by traumatic brain injury, birth injury, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, or exposure to toxic substances, such as lead.
Organic mental disorders can also be known as organic brain syndrome or organic brain disease; however, these names are largely outmoded terms that were used in the past to describe a situation where physical impairments caused mental or cognitive problems.
For disability claim purposes, organic mental disorders are covered in Social Security's impairment listing manual under listing 12.02. Social Security evaluates organic mental disorders according to a patient's history, lab test results, and the results of a physical examination. The physical exam should demonstrate the existence of a specific organic (physical) factor that forms the etiological basis (cause) for the abnormal mental state and lost functional abilities experienced by an individual. Lost functional abilities can include a lower I.Q., memory loss, and dementia. For some organic mental diseases, Social Security has specific disability listings; in fact, we have a special section on getting disability for brain disorders, which includes articles on getting disability benefits for the various organic mental diseases.