The Social Security Administration permits individuals who have mental illnesses to receive benefits for their impaired or diminished working capacity. Limitations caused by mental health can be much more extensive than many people think, which is why having benefits for this type of condition is so helpful.
Many people who struggle with mental health are not able to work at all or can only work part-time. Social security disability benefits help those will mental illnesses support themselves when they cannot work.
However, ensuring that you qualify for benefits and applying for mental disability benefits can be confusing and frustrating. Knowing the basics of these types of claims can help you or a loved one get the benefits that you need.
Is Mental Illness a Disability?
Having a mental health issue by itself certainly does not make you disabled. Many people who have mental illnesses can still lead full lives that include working full or part-time as well. However, when a mental disability affects your ability to work, then you may be able to get social security disability benefits.
The definition of disability varies depending on the context. The Social Security Administration has a definition of mental illness that amounts to a disability. You have to meet their particular qualifications to receive benefits.
Generally, if you cannot do activities of daily living, including function in social environments, then the SSA may determine that you are disabled.
To determine if you are mentally disabled, the SSA will evaluate things like:
- How well you can take care of your home
- Your ability to travel or run errands
- Whether you can address your personal hygiene
- How well you can take care of things like paying bills, shopping, and cooking
- Your ability to function in social settings, as would be required if you had to work
- Whether you can control your behavior
- Your ability to recall, retain, or process information
Your ability to function in social settings is particularly important because that will have a significant impact on whether you can work.
The SSA uses specific definitions for mental impairments, but there are quite a few mental illnesses that may qualify for social security benefits, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality and impulse control disorders
- Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Autism spectrum
- Neurodevelopmental conditions
- Eating disorders
- Stress-related or trauma disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
You must have both a diagnosis of the mental disorder, and it must affect your ability to work to qualify for disability benefits.
Mental illness is very common in the United States, but some mental health conditions appear more often than others. SSA uses very specific requirements for these more common disabling conditions.
An affective disorder modifies your mood, which often has an impact on your ability to function on a daily basis. These disorders include things like major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.
Qualifications for SSD benefits under this type of condition include:
- Being in treatment for two years or more
- Inability to function outside of a supportive environment
- Medical documentation that indicates that your situation keeps you from working or functioning well in a working environment.
The medical evidence attached to your application must show at least one of the following to qualify for benefits for anxiety.
- Constant irrational fear
- Persistent anxiety with accompanying symptoms (such as motor tension or apprehensive expectation)
- Recurring, unpredictable panic attacks
- Recurring compulsions or obsessions that cause significant stress or decreased function
Any of these must indicate that your ability to function in normal social or working conditions is impaired.
How Much Does Mental Health Disability Pay?
Benefits for mental health disabilities are the same as they would be for physical disabilities.
Benefits are not based on the type of disability you have or how severe it is. If you qualify, then your benefits are calculated just as they would be if you had a physical limitation.
Your benefits are based on your lifetime average earnings. As a rule, your benefits only cover a portion of your average, so there is a good chance that your benefits will be lower than the highest wage you have earned in your lifetime.
How to Get Disability for Mental Illness
Some people make the mistake of assuming that Social Security Disability benefits are only available to those who have a physical injury. This simply is not true. In fact, roughly 35 percent of all people who receive SSDI benefits are getting them because of mental impairment.
However, getting disability for mental illness can be difficult. You use the same application as someone who applies for a physical limitation, which sometimes makes fully describing your condition a challenge.
Applying for mental disability benefits requires some unique preparation compared to applying for disability with a physical condition as well.
Mental illness disability claims are denied more often than similar types of claims. This is true for a few reasons.
Evidence is Subjective
Unlike a physical injury, it is often hard to see mental illnesses in many situations.
You often cannot “prove” that a mental disability exists as you can with a physical injury or disorder.
Individuals Often Fail to Comply with Recommended Treatment
Following your treatment plan is required if you want to get SSD benefits.
However, the stigma around mental health, limitations regarding healthcare options, and a general reluctance to follow treatment plans can make this requirement difficult for many people.
Poor Treatment from Healthcare Providers
Many general healthcare providers do not handle mental health disabilities properly. If you do not get the right care, that can have a significant impact on your daily life.
Your provider needs to note issues with your mental health in your medical records just as they would your physical condition, but that often does not occur as it should.
The Social Security Disability Lawyers at Krasno, Krasno, & Onwudinjo know just how challenging dealing with a mental health disability can be, and we want to help you or your loved one through the SSA’s application process.
We provide this service with no up-front cost to you. We only receive payment if you get benefits.
Let us put our experience and knowledge to work for you. Contact our team today.