Does My Mental Illness Qualify for Disability Benefits?

With nearly one in five adults in the U.S. living with a mental illness, it shouldn’t be a shock that many wonder if their mental illness is serious enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. Though we often associate disability with physical health issues, mental illness can impact one’s life strongly enough that they are unable to function as they did before. If your mental illness is making it impossible to work, you might not know what to do next. 

While difficult, it is possible to receive disability benefits for a mental illness. Let’s go over what you need to know before applying for benefits. 

What Mental Illnesses Qualify for Social Security Disability?

As of 2013, around 36% of people who qualified for disability did so based on a mental health condition. In order for you to qualify, your condition must be listed in the SSA’s Blue Book of conditions. These include: 

  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders 
  • Autism spectrum disorders 
  • Intellectual disorders
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Organic mental disorders (delirium, Alzheimer’s disease, amnesia) 
  • Personality disorders 
  • Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders 

That being said, you won’t automatically qualify if you have one of these disorders. You must also prove that your mental illness greatly limits or prohibits your functioning at work. If your illness doesn’t limit your work, or if you don’t have enough evidence, you will not be approved. 

How to Prove Your Mental Illness is a Disability

Those who review disability applications are less likely to approve a mental illness as a disability for several reasons. First, many fail to understand the true severity of mental illness and treat it as something that you can “get over.” Second, since there aren’t usually clear physical symptoms, many assume those with mental illness are faking it. The best way to combat these perceptions is by providing as much detailed information as possible to prove your case. 

Information that is typically included in a disability application includes: 

  • Your initial application form 
  • Medical records and proof of diagnosis and treatment 
  • A psychiatric review technique review (PRTF) proving your disability and functioning 
  • Proof of ability to perform activities of daily living like dressing and cooking 
  • Information given by doctors, social workers, friends, employers and family. 

How can I get my disability application approved?

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to make sure that your application is approved. However, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances: 

  • Always get records. If you can’t prove your diagnosis, there’s no way to prove your disability. If you know that you will be applying to receive SSDI benefits, tell your doctor that you will need a record of all of your treatments. Your doctor may also be able to help you to understand what kinds of paperwork you’ll need to apply. 
  • Comply with treatment. Receiving ongoing mental health treatment from a psychiatrist and counseling with a therapist is the key to success in getting your application approved. Not only does it show that you are trying to improve your condition, it gives you medical proof. Failure to comply with treatment is one of the biggest reasons that your application may be disqualified. While treatment may be difficult, understand that you cannot receive disability benefits without proving that you’ve attempted to improve your condition. 
  • Get a lawyer. Proving the severity of your mental illness is an uphill battle, and a lawyer can help you best position your case to receive benefits. Not only can a lawyer help you fill out your application, they can also assist if your application is denied and you need to go in front of an appeals court. Having a lawyer in your corner can help increase your odds of getting your application improved at all stages of the process. 

Do you need assistance applying for disability?

Contact Reynolds & Gold. We’re here to help the process of applying for disability go as smoothly as possible. 

An older man filing his taxes.A mother helps her disabled son with his wheelchair in their home.