Qualifications for Mental Illness Disability Benefits

frustrated man

Mental illnesses are a legitimate health problem, and can even be considered a disability. Although mental health awareness has been growing these past few years, not everyone affected is aware that they can apply for disability benefits. If you or someone you know is suffering from any mental illness, this will help you understand how to qualify for government benefits.

How to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD)

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a disability is any disease or injury that hinders you from doing work you used to do, or from adjusting to other sorts of work. The disability must be expected to last for a minimum of 12 months or result in death. To be considered for the Social Security Disability claim, your disability should keep you from doing basic work-related tasks and from earning an average of $1000 per month.

Mental disorders that qualify for SSD

The condition has to be diagnosed by a doctor and meet the criteria above. It should also render you unable to receive training for other work.

Although the SSA has a list of conditions, you may still qualify for SSD benefits even if yours is not on the list. The SSA recognizes the following mental illness categories:

Organic disorders

These are afflictions that can lead to mental or behavioral problems, and are not a result of psychiatric disorders or substance abuse. Common symptoms include memory loss, confusion, agitation, and loss of brain function. Some examples are Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, and Amnesia.

Psychotic disorders

They cause abnormal perceptions and thinking, driving the patient to lose touch with reality. Their main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Schizophrenia, paranoia, and bipolar disorder fall under this category.

Mental retardation

These are learning disorders that start early in life and are characterized by below average intellectual functioning. Some examples are Down syndrome, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Affective disorders

Mood disorders fall into this category, and they are not a direct result of brain abnormalities. This includes depression, manic-depression, and anxiety.

Substance addiction

These are forms of substance abuse, such as alcoholism and drug addiction.

Personality disorders

Defined by deviant behaviors, these disorders include passive-aggression and obsessive-compulsion.

Autism or Pervasive developmental disorders

These disabilities affect behavior, communication, and cognitive and social skills.

Since diagnosis tends to be subjective, the SSA suggests keeping a journal of how the condition is affecting your daily life, including household tasks and your ability to focus. Have your medical doctor, psychiatrist and former employers write on your behalf to detail how the illness is affecting your ability to work.

How to apply for SSD

writing on an application form

Social Security Disability applications can be filed online at the Disability Benefits Center website, or over the phone or in person at your nearest Social Security Field Office.  Take note that around 70% of initial applications are denied. If your claim is denied, you can file a Request for Reconsideration no longer than 60 days after receiving the letter of denial.

If the reconsideration request is denied, you can request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge or ALJ. If it is denied, appeal with the Social Security Disability Appeals Council. If the claim is still unsuccessful, you can appeal with the Federal District Court.

The process can be confusing and stressful. To simplify the process and help you through, you can hire a qualified Social Security Disability attorney.

Some still believe that mental illnesses are not legitimate disabilities and further pushes the mentally ill from having the benefits they deserve. Hopefully, mental health awareness keeps improving, so it will be easier for patients to get help.

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