July is Mental Health Awareness Month

As Mental Health Awareness Month, July is perhaps the most appropriate time for reviewing the types of mental diseases and disorders that qualify under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) guidelines for disability benefits. There are a number of conditions that can meet the SSA’s guidelines, though it’s important to understand that there are condition-specific eligibility requirements as well as general disability requirements that the SSA applies to every application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

General Disability Requirements

Any application for SSD benefits must meet certain basic requirements in order to be found eligible for benefits regardless of the type of disability driving the application. The applicant must have a condition that:

  • Prevents him/her from holding gainful employment,
  • Is expected to last 12 or more consecutive months and/or result in death, and
  • Can be proven under standard medical documentation practices.

Condition-Specific Disability Requirements

Every application for SSD benefits must contain thorough medical documentation supporting the claim for disability. That documentation should include letters from treating physicians and mental health service providers as well as medical records. Medical records should include any and all disability-related test results, treatments undertaken, and any other pertinent details related to the diagnosis, management and outlook for the condition.

Each mental illness and disorder recognized under the SSA’s guidelines has specific criteria that must be met in order to qualify for SSD benefits. The condition-specific definitions for each potentially eligible condition can be found on the SSA’s website.

What Conditions are covered Under SSD?

There are many different categories of mental illnesses and disorders that may qualify for SSD benefits. The following conditions are generally considered eligible under the SSA’s guidelines, though applicants must still meet the general disability requirements and condition-specific criteria before receiving disability benefits.

  • Organic Mental Disorders
  • Psychotic Disorders, including Paranoid and Schizophrenic Conditions
  • Affective Disorders
  • Mental Retardation
  • Anxiety Disorders and Related Conditions
  • Somatoform Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Substance Addictive Disorders
  • Autistic Disorders and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Supporting the Claim for SSD with a Mental Illness or Disorder

Again, each condition in the SSA’s Blue Book list (standard list of potentially disabling conditions) has specific criteria which must be met in order for an SSD application to adequately support a claim for disability benefits. For this reason, it’s essential that the applicant work closely with his or her mental health care provider(s) and other treating physicians in order to effectively document the disability and substantiate the claim for SSD benefits.

Substantiating any medical condition under the SSA’s eligibility guidelines can be challenging, but supporting a claim with a mental illness or disorder diagnosis can be even more complex, especially given the fact that many mental health issues affect each individual differently. Having legal assistance when filing an SSD application can be helpful, particularly in cases where mental illness is the primary reason for the disability.

A Social Security lawyer accustomed to working on mental health-related SSD claims can help put together a more thorough case file and adequately detailed application for disability benefits. In the process, he or she can help increase the chances of the application being approved as well.