Social Security Disability Benefits and Mental Health Conditions

Social Security Disability Benefits and Mental Health Conditions


Social Security Disability benefits allow the disabled to receive benefits for their impaired or diminished working capacity. Overseen by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), there are a number of federal programs for disabled workers, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Today we will explore the relationship between mental health disorders and Social Security disability benefits. Mental health disorder diagnoses have only increased in number. With more and more people suffering from recognized mental health disorders, it is crucial to comprehend how Social Security benefits apply to such disabilities.

To gain a clear understanding of the relationship between Social Security and mental health disorders, we will cover relevant definitions, benefits, requirements, application processes, and appeals in the following sections.


How Does the SSA Define Mental Health Disorders?

In terms of evaluating potential disability, the SSA divides impairments into separate categories. The SSA also maintains a Listing of Impairments for each major body system, such as respiratory, skin, mental, or cardiovascular. The conditions in each listing represent severe and likely permanent impairments. As a result, having a condition from any of the listings generally prevents the person from performing standard work duties.

In terms of mental health disorders, specifically, we can look to Listing 12.00 Mental Disorders. Under this listing, the SSA provides a number of mental health disorders that could prevent a person from performing gainful work. There are 11 different categories of mental health disorders under Listing 12.00:

  • Neurocognitive disorders;
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders;
  • Depressive, bipolar and related disorders;
  • Intellectual disorder;
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders;
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders;
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders;
  • Autism spectrum disorder;
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders;
  • Eating disorders; and
  • Trauma and stress disorders.


How Can SSDI Help People with Mental Health Disorders?

A person suffering from mental health disorders can receive a number of benefits from Social Security. If the person’s ability to work is limited or eliminated, Social Security benefits can provide monthly financial assistance. That way the disabled person is able to make ends meet, even in the absence of gainful employment.

Though it is important to note that the type, amount and duration of benefits differ on a case-by-case basis. If a person has a qualifying medical condition and sufficient work history, then SSDI benefits can lead to monthly compensation. If a person has a qualifying medical condition and insufficient work history, they may still qualify for monthly payments through SSI.

If you would like to know more about the relationship between Social Security benefits and mental health disorders, please feel free to check out recent blog post – SSD: Can I Receive Social Security Benefits for Mental Illness?.


What are the Requirements for SSDI?

In order to obtain benefits, applicants must complete a number of SSDI requirements. While the process is similar for all disabilities, we will examine the required conditions for SSDI benefits through the lens of mental health disorders from Listing 12.00. For such disorders, the SSA focuses on medical and functional criteria.

In terms of the medical criteria, the SSA requires the applicant to prove the existence of a qualifying mental health disorder through medical records and evidence. In other words, medical professionals must diagnose and document the mental health disorder before the SSA will grant disability benefits.

Regarding the functional criteria, the SSA will rate the applicant’s ability to perform the standard cognitive functions required for most work duties. Under the SSA’s evaluation criteria, a worker must be able to:

  • Comprehend, recall or process information;
  • Focus, endure or preserve work pace;
  • Collaborate with coworkers; and
  • Adjust or control their behavior.


In order for a mental health disorder to qualify for disability benefits under the functional criteria, the applicant must show severe or distinct limitations in the activities listed above.

In certain cases, the SSA will also evaluate the timeframe or duration of the mental health disorder in question. To qualify for SSDI benefits, the disability must be “serious and persistent.” Stated otherwise, the disability must have a severe and lasting impact. Mental health disorders that are minor or temporary in nature would not qualify for the SSDI benefits.

If you are curious about the requirements for SSDI benefits in the mental health context, please feel free to check out our recent blog post – SSD: What is Required to Receive Benefits for Mental Impairments?.


How do I Apply for Social Security Benefits?

Disabled workers who wish to apply for Social Security benefits must submit an application to the SSA. This application will involve personal information, such as date of birth and Social Security number. The applicant should be prepared to provide detailed medical records concerning the severity and extent of their disability. The applicant should also be prepared to provide employment documents and tax returns concerning their work history.

Upon receipt of a completed application, the SSA will review the information. The SSA will determine whether the applicant’s personal information, medical records, and employment history qualify for Social Security benefits. The SSA may reach out to the applicant for additional information. Finally, the SSA will make a decision and follow up with the applicant.

If you would like to know more about the application process and relevant considerations, please feel free to check out our recent blog post – What To Consider When Applying For Social Security Disability.


What Happens if My SSDI Claim is Denied?

Thankfully it is not the end of the road for those who are denied Social Security benefits. While it is not an ideal situation, a denied claim for SSDI or other Social Security benefits is a fairly common reality. For many people, an initial denial or rejection is simply one step in a long process.

In order to challenge a denied claim for Social Security benefits, it is important to act quickly and file a Social Security Disability appeal. The appeals process involves many steps and considerations on a short timeline.

During the appeals process, it will be important to demonstrate the extent of disability through medical records and treatment. It is also crucial to connect your disability to an impaired or reduced ability to perform work duties.

A successful appeal to a denied claim for Social Security benefits can even result in an award of retroactive benefits. These retroactive benefits can stretch as far back as the date you filed the appeal.

If you are interested in learning more about the appeals process for SSDI benefits, please feel free to check out our recent blog post – Social Security Disability Insurance: The Appeals Process.


Do You Need Legal Help?

If you are struggling to obtain Social Security benefits for a mental health disorder or other condition, there is no substitute for an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. The attorneys at Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo have demonstrated experience dealing with a wide variety of Social Security cases. If you need legal help, know that you can contact us immediately at 800-952-9640 or online by completing a simple form. There is no fee unless we win.

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