Understanding Social Security Disability for Mental Health Conditions
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Understanding Social Security Disability for Mental Health Conditions

Understanding Social Security Disability for Mental Health Conditions

Anyone who has ever dealt with a serious mental health disease knows it can be just as debilitating as a serious physical injury or degenerative condition, sometimes even more so. However, while the Social Security Administration (SSA) does agree that mental health conditions can be disabling in this way, definitively proving that you meet the SSA’s criteria defining “disability” and are eligible for Social Security disability benefits can still be challenging.

A knowledgeable lawyer from Shook & Stone can help you with understanding Social Security disability for mental health conditions by answering questions and relaying our experiences with the application process during a free consultation. In the meantime, though, here is a general overview of how the SSA tends to approach applications of this nature and what you should be prepared to do if you want to improve your chances of obtaining the benefits you need.

When Does a Mental Health Condition Qualify as a “Disability”?

For the purposes of determining eligibility for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Social Security Administration defines a “disability” to be:

  • A serious physical or mental impairment that prevents you from performing “Substantial Gainful Activity” and
  • Will last for at least 12 consecutive months or directly cause your premature death

Much as it does with physical injuries and conditions, the SSA sorts mental disorders into several categories in the interest of streamlining determinations of eligibility for benefits. The categories include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders
  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • PTSD and other trauma- or stressor-related disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome
  • Neurocognitive disorders causing a “significant decline in cognitive function,” such as Alzheimer’s
  • Disorders causing somatic symptoms which cannot be fully explained by another physical or mental condition
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders causing hallucinations, delusions, or other “grossly disorganized” behaviors
  • Intellectual disorders manifesting before the age of 22 and causing “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning”

A qualified legal professional from Shook & Stone can provide more information about whether a specific condition would likely meet the SSA’s criteria for defining disability.

Proving Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits

The SSA requires “objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source” to determine whether a mental disorder prohibits someone from functioning normally in a work setting and engaging in substantial gainful activity. Typically, this requires comprehensive reports and records from both diagnosing and treating medical professionals. That said, the SSA will also consider other forms of quantitative and qualitative evidence, such as:

  • Testimony from cognitive behavioral therapists
  • Reports from special education services or vocational work training services
  • Information from family, friends, community members, and even you about the impacts your condition has on your daily life

The amount and quality of evidence submitted alongside an application for Social Security benefits based on a mental health condition will determine not only whether you qualify for benefits in the first place, but also the amount of benefits you may receive in the event your application is approved. Support from seasoned legal counsel can be key to achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

Consider Working With a Social Security Attorney When Applying for Mental Health Disability Benefits

You can successfully apply for and obtain Social Security benefits for a serious mental health disease, but proving you are eligible for those benefits can work differently from doing the same thing for a physical disability. Fortunately, you have assistance available with understanding Social Security disability for mental health conditions from the dependable lawyers at Shook & Stone. Call us today to learn more.