Mental Illness and Disability Benefits | Social Security Disability Benefits for Mental Illness | SSD | SSDI | SSI

Many people wrongly believe Social Security Disability benefits are available only in cases of physical illness. This is decidedly not the case. The Social Security Administration recognize that mental illness can be just as disabling as any physical illness or physical injury.

People who suffer from a serious mental illness are entitled to disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, just like someone with a physical disability would be. If you are unable to work because you suffer from a serious mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or an personality disorder, you may be eligible for benefits from the Social Security Administration.

The application process for SSDI or SSI benefits can be long and difficult, but hiring a Social Security attorney who specializes in cases involving mental illness can greatly improve your chances of winning your case. Your lawyer will be well versed in mental health issues and will work diligently to ensure you receive the Social Security Disability benefits that you deserve.

Types of Mental Disorders - SSDI Benefits

The Social Security Administration currently arranges mental disorders into the following categories. A licensed mental health professional or physician must evaluate you to help determine if your mental illness is so severe that it will prevent you from working and persist for more than 12 months.

1. Anxiety-related disorders
Anxiety disorders, which can leave you unable to cope with daily life, are the most common of all mental illnesses and also rank among the most treatable. This category includes both anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In these disorders, anxiety is either the predominant disturbance or it is experienced if the individual attempts to master symptoms; for example, confronting the dreaded object or situation in a phobic disorder or resisting the obsessions or compulsions in obsessive compulsive disorders.

2. Paranoid schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
Schizophrenia ranks among the most debilitating and baffling mental illnesses. Paranoid schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness where a person loses touch with reality. The hallmarks of paranoid schizophrenia include having delusions and hearing things that aren’t real.

3. Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders
Autism is a neural developmental disorder that is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and by repetitive behavior. Often, there is a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests, which frequently are stereotyped and repetitive.

4. Personality disorders
A personality disorder exists when personality traits are inflexible and maladaptive and cause either significant impairment in social or occupational functioning or subjective distress. Generally, having a personality disorder means a person has an unhealthy pattern of thinking or behaving no matter what type of situation. Personality orders include borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

5. Manic depression and other affective disorders
Manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, is a serious, chronic mental disorder. People who suffer from manic depression see their moods swing wildly, from a euphoric state to depressed. It is estimated that one in 100 people suffer from manic depression, which means that hundreds of people in the Houston area suffer from manic depression.

6. Body dysmorphism and hypochondria
In body dysmorphic disorder, a person is excessively concerned by a perceived defect with a physical feature. This results in a distorted body image. Hypochondria is a belief that physical symptoms are signs of a serious illness, even when there is no medical evidence to support the presence of an illness. Both body dysmorphia and hypochrondria are somatoform disorders.

7. Mental retardation
One can be considered mentally retarded if they have significantly below average general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested during the developmental period. This condition must be diagnosed before age 18 or by 22 at the very latest.

Applying for SSDI or SSI Benefits for Mental Illnesses

When applying for disability on the basis of a mental disorder, an applicant for Social Security Disability may have to provide the following information:

  • Medical evidence
  • Psychiatric information
  • Evidence of work attempts
  • Mental status examination
  • Psychological testing
  • Intelligence testing
  • Personality testing
  • Neuropsychological assessments
  • Evidence of treatment.

Other specific tests may be ordered in cases involving traumatic brain injury, anxiety disorders and eating disorders.

The most important piece of evidence you present to the Social Security Administration in your disability application for mental illness is your doctor's testimony. Ideally, you would have your psychologist or psychiatrist write a long letter about your condition, explaining your symptoms and particular behavior and how they impact your ability to function. If you do not have a psychologist or doubt you can afford one, you can find a low-cost medical provider in your area using this locator from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The Social Security Administration is interested in how your mental illness impacts the four areas of functioning, which it defines as:

  1. Daily living skills - The basic tasks of adult life, which include getting dressed, brushing your teeth, buying groceries.
  2. Social Functioning - The ability to read social cues and function in society. Can you hold a normal conversation? Do you clam up around strangers? Social skills are crucial to hold down a job.
  3. Concentration, persistence, or pace - Are you able to complete tasks in a timely and efficient manner? If your concentration wanders too much, you may not be able to work.
  4. Episodes of deterioration or decompensation - Do you have episodes where you completely withdraw or, conversely, loose your cool? Repeated episodes point to a person's inability to function in a workplace.

If a person is found lacking in three of those four areas, it is likely the Social Security Administration will find them disabled on the basis of a mental disability.

Applying for Social Security with both mental and physical disabilities

A great number of people applying for Social Security disability suffer from both physical and mental illnesses. For instance, a person suffering from colon cancer might also list an anxiety disorder or clinical depression as a co-existing mental illness. By law, the Social Security Administration is required to give mental and physical disabilities equal weight in the application process.

The Office of Disability Determination Services looks at both mental and physical claims when weighing whether to characterize you as disabled. A Social Security lawyer who has handled claims for people with both types of disability will use this experience to ensure your application for disability benefits is handled smoothly and efficiently.