Can I get Social Security Disability with a Mental Illness?

There are a variety of mental health disorders that the Social Security Administration will consider disabling. Claimants may be able to win Social Security Disability benefits either by “meeting a listing”, which means their condition is listed in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairment or Blue Book (a list of conditions the SSA automatically considers disabling) or by proving their mental health condition is so severe they are unable to perform substantial gainful activity for at least 12 continuous months through a medical vocational allowance.

So what types of mental health disorders does the Social Security Administration have listed in their SSA Listing of Impairments or Blue Book?

Common disabling mental health conditions and their corresponding listing number are below.

  • Organic mental disorders (12.02)
  • Schizophrenic
  • Paranoid and other psychotic disorders (12.03)
  •  Affective disorders (12.04)
  • Mental retardation (12.05)
  • Anxiety-related disorders (12.06)
  • Somatoform disorders (12.07)
  • Personality disorders (12.08)
  • Substance addiction disorders (12.09)
  • Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders (12.10)

Keep in mind, to meet a listing your condition not only has to be listed, you also have to have symptoms or limitations which are as severe as the ones listed in the Blue Book. Having the condition may be insufficient if your condition is not serious. For instance, claimants who claim to be “depressed” may experience mild mood swings or loss of interest in activities or they may be suicidal.

So what types of issues does the Social Security Administration assess for a mental health disorder? The SSA will review a variety of factors including how the mental health disorder affects the following:

  • The impact on the claimant’s daily living and social functioning
  • The ability of the claimant to maintain concentration, pace, persistence in a work environment
  • The amount and duration of their episodes of decompensation, including increases in the claimant’s medications or psychological support system or increased hospitalizations. (Episodes of decompensation generally are three episodes within 1 year, or an average of once every 4 months, each lasting for at least 2 weeks).

If your condition does not meet a listing, you may be able to qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits, but it will be more difficult.  The Social Security Administration may concede you have a serious health condition but you will have to work a little harder to convince them that you are unable to work due to your mental health condition.

So, how do you prove that you cannot work? First it is important to understand what you need to prove. If you have been seeing a mental health specialist your medical records probably prove that you have a mental health disorder, but do they prove that you cannot work (perform substantial activity) or explicitly outline your residual functional capacity to work?

If your condition does not meet a listing, the SSA will complete several additional disability evaluation steps (which are part of their Five Step Sequential Evaluation) and see if you can qualify for disability under a medical vocational allowance. The SSA will answer two questions. 

  • Can you perform the work you performed in the past?

Many claimants can prove that their condition is so severe that they cannot work their current job, unfortunately, this will not be enough to win SSD benefits. If you cannot work your previous job, the SSA proceeds to the next question.  

  • Can you be retrained for new work?

Under this step the SSA will determine if you could be retrained for new work. To make this determination, the SSA will review your education, work history and transferable work skills, your age, and your residual capacity to work. If the SSA determines you could not retrain or adjust to other work, they will award SSD benefits. If they determine you could retrain for new employment, they will deny SSD benefits.

What does the SSA need to find you disabled?

The Social Security Administration asks claimants to list the names of their doctor’s addresses, phone numbers and dates of treatment. This information is used to gather medical evidence from all of your medical sources. Make sure this information is complete or this could add weeks to the disability evaluation process.

After the SSA has gathered all of your medical records the Disability of Determination Services (DDS) Offices will evaluate your medical record. The DDS will review your medical files, your diagnosis, your residual functional capacity to work, and determine if you meet mental or physical health condition meets their definition of disabled as determined by the sequential evaluation process.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

What is the most important thing you can do to improve your chances of winning disability for a mental health condition? Get great medical help, consistently see a doctor, take your medication and make sure your medical file clearly states why you cannot work.

If you would like a disability attorney to review your claim you can fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability advocate will call you to review your claim or you can call our office at 1-800-641-3759 to talk to someone now.

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beth

Beth L. is a content writer for Disability Benefits Home. Good content and information is one of many methods we utilize to bring you the answers you need.
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