Disability for Mental Health

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Getting Social Security Disability Benefits for Mental Illness

A significant number of people suffer from mental illnesses or disorders that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers to be a major impairment or disability. Some of the common mental disorders for which applicants seek disability benefits and file claims include bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. In addition, Americans also apply for disability claims for dementia, schizophrenia, learning disabilities, autism, and intellectual disability.

Social Security claims can be difficult to win and they require approval by the SSA. The SSA reviews these types of claims and analyzes the evidence that individuals have provided to support their claims. The SSA denies more than half of the claims for mental health disability benefits at the initial stage, and approximately 75% of the applications proceed to an appeal that is later approved.

What Mental Disorders Qualify for Social Security Disability?

The SSA awards Social Security disability benefits for many different types of mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, anxiety-related disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, autism, and intellectual disabilities. Other claims that the SSA approves are often related to cognitive problems, such as traumatic brain injuries, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and age-related memory issues.

SSA Evaluation of Mental Illness Claims

Disability For Mental HealthWhen an individual applies for Social Security disability benefits, the SSA will review all of the medical records that the person has submitted with their claim to determine whether an individual’s mental illness can meet one of the criteria set forth in the official listings of impairments. The SSA has a section within its Blue Book that is reserved for making determinations on mental disorders. 

Some of the conditions that are included in the listing for mental health disability include eating disorders, mood disorders (such as depression), bipolar disorder, neurocognitive disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)), impulse control disorders, personality-related disorders, eating disorders, autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, intellectual disorders, somatic symptom disorders, and schizophrenia. 

Every disorder has specific requirements that an applicant must be able to meet in order to qualify for benefits. An individual needs to have a diagnosis of a particular condition, and the condition must cause the person to experience functional constraints that prevent them from working and earning a living. This is why it is recommended to seek help from a disability lawyer who has years of experience dealing with these types of cases before filing a claim with the SSA. 

The criteria for satisfying the different listings’ requirements can be complex and difficult to understand. This is why applicants should speak with the psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist who is treating them to help determine whether their condition may qualify as a mental disorder according to the SSA.

Criteria Specified By the Social Security Administration (SSA) 

If a disabled person does not meet the requirements specifically set forth within a Blue Book listing, the SSA will evaluate the applicant’s condition to help determine their mental residual functional capacity (MRFC). The MRFC identifies what an applicant is able to do, as well as any emotional limitations that the person may have. 

Once the SSA determines your MRFC and whether you can do work on a sustained or regular basis or full time, it will decide whether you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. This is why it can be important for a disabled person to seek guidance from a legal professional to determine how to best apply for mental disability benefits.

The SSA will evaluate all of your medical records, including opinions submitted by psychologists or psychiatrists that can help to determine your mental capacity and limitations. A disabled person should always consult a doctor before applying, who can analyze their mental condition and prepare a comprehensive MRFC report.

It can be a complex and time-consuming process to win a claim that is based on a psychiatrist’s or psychologist’s diagnosis of a mental condition if they do not provide a detailed report. Therefore, it is advisable that a person seek guidance from a knowledgeable lawyer who has the experience necessary to handle complicated disability cases. 

SSA will also review a number of other factors to determine whether a person’s limitations prevent them from working, including:

  • Capability to memorize things 
  • Ability to understand and retain information
  • Capability to follow multi-step directions
  • Ability to control one’s behavior
  • Ability to interact with others
  • Ability to tolerate stress
  • Ability to complete tasks and concentration on the work
  • Capability to get work done in an appropriate time
  • Ability to adapt to any changes
  • Ability to perform daily activities, such as paying bills, shopping, grocery, bathing

If your mental condition causes severe constraints or if your limitations become increasingly burdensome, it can increase your chances of getting approved for the Social Security disability benefits you need. A competent lawyer can help to make sure that your MRFC form is completed properly, as well as help you submit the paperwork to the SSA within the appropriate time frame. 

Medical Records Required to Prove Mental Health Disability

The SSA decides disability claims based on the medical records submitted by the disabled person. This is why it is important to include any medical records that medical professionals have prepared to support your application. The medical records need to include documentation provided by therapists, counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, emergency room visits relating to the condition, hospitalizations records, and pharmacy records (including prescription information relating to your condition).

A person should not include any irrelevant medical records from health care providers who treated you for reasons unrelated to your mental condition, such as from podiatrists or chiropractors. However, if you do not have any medical records for the SSA to review when deciding whether to award the benefits, you can seek a psychological evaluation in advance.

The SSA will review your application and grant you disability benefits if you meet all of the eligibility requirements. Before awarding any benefits, the SSA will make sure that you are unable to work or perform any substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least one year. If a person earns more than the SGA threshold, then the SSA will likely deny the claim without even reviewing their medical records. 

Disability lawyers in Florida work to help those with mental health disabilities and their families. They help people find the right care, advocate for them, and ensure that they know how to apply for the benefits they deserve.


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