Published on: November 1, 2023
If a mental illness that prevents you from working, Social Security disability benefits offers financial assistance. However, getting the help you need is not an easy task. Only one-third of applications for disability submitted each year qualify for benefits.
Disability Experts of Florida have disability advocates working with you to improve your chance of obtaining disability benefits for a mental health disorder. If a claim is denied, they'll continue to fight for you through the appeal process.
This blog explains what you need to know to prove that a mental illness qualifies you for disability. If you have any questions or concerns after reading it, contact a disability advocate at Disability Experts of Florida.
Is Mental Illness A Disability?
The Social Security Administration recognizes various mental conditions that may qualify for disability benefits. They are contained in a listing of impairments, commonly called the Blue Book.
Mental Health Conditions That May Qualify For Benefits Include:
- Neurocognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia, or traumatic brain injury
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or delusional disorder
- Depressive and bipolar disorders, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia
- Intellectual developmental disorders, such as intellectual disability or learning disorders
- Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or social anxiety disorder
- Somatic symptom and related disorders, such as somatic symptom disorder, illness anxiety disorder, or conversion disorder
- Personality and impulse-control disorders
- Eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related disorders
- Autism spectrum disorder and related conditions, such as Asperger's syndrome or Rett syndrome
- Substance addiction disorders, such as alcoholism or drug addiction
However, a diagnosis of one of these mental illnesses is not enough to qualify for disability benefits. You also need to show that your condition is severe enough to prevent you from doing substantial gainful activity and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
The SSA evaluates your condition based on understanding, remembering, or applying information, interacting with others, concentrating, maintaining pace, adapting, and managing yourself. You need to have an extreme limitation in one area of functioning or marked limitations in two areas of functioning to meet the criteria for disability. Alternatively, you can qualify if your condition is serious and persistent and you have a treatment history with only marginal adjustment.
Application Process To Apply For Disability Benefits
To apply for disability benefits with a mental illness, you need to provide evidence of your condition and its impact on your ability to work. A diagnosis only proves that you have a mental illness, but it does not demonstrate how the illness affects your ability to function in a work setting.
A disability advocate at Disability Experts of Florida works with you to identify and gather evidence to prove that a mental illness qualifies you for disability benefits through the Supplemental Disability Insurance or Social Security Disability Insurance programs. Typical forms of proof include the following:
- Medical records from psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, or other mental health professionals.
- Results of psychological tests or evaluations.
- Medication history and side effects.
- Statements from yourself, your family members, friends, co-workers, or employers about your symptoms and limitations.
- All other relevant information supporting your claim.
After you submit your application, the SSA reviews your information and determines if you meet the basic eligibility requirements for disability benefits. If you apply through the SSDI program, you must have enough work credits at jobs where you paid Social Security taxes on the income, currently not earning more than the 2023 substantial gainful activity monthly limit of $1,470 or $2,460 if you are blind, and have a disabling condition that meets the SSA's definition of disability.
Someone applying for benefits through the SSI program needs a disabling condition that meets the SSA standards for a disability and has limited income and resources. SSI is a needs-based program that does not have a work requirement like the SSDI program, but you need to be poor enough to require financial assistance to obtain food, shelter, and other necessities.
If you meet these requirements, your claim is sent to the Disability Determination Services to evaluate your mental health condition. The DDS assigns a medical consultant and a disability examiner to review your case and make a decision based on the evidence you provided. They may contact you or your health care providers for more information and ask you to attend a consultative examination with an independent medical professional.
When your claim is approved, you receive a letter telling you the benefit amount and the date when payments begin. A denial letter explains why the claim was denied and contains instructions about your right to challenge the denial through an appeals process.
Get Help From A Disability Advocate
Obtaining financial assistance through SSI and SSDI is a complicated and frustrating process. Let an experienced disability advocate at Disability Experts of Florida help you get the benefits you need and deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.