The Social Security Administration recognizes a wide variety of mental disorders as having the potential to cause total long term disability. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on a mental disorder, your condition must be diagnosed by a doctor and meet the criteria which any other illness or injury must meet in order to qualify for disability, namely:
- The mental disorder must prevent you from doing any work which you have done up until now.
- The mental disorder must render you unable to reasonably be trained for other work, which is available at the time of your disability.
- The mental disorder must be expected to be long term, lasting at least a year.
The criteria for disability based on mental health are the same, whether you are applying for SSDI or SSI. With these broad criteria in mind, the SSA recognizes several categories of mental illness which may be considered for Social Security Disability.
- Organic disorders. Organic mental disorders; such as delirium, dementia, and mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s, affect the nervous system.
- Psychotic disorders. Mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and paranoia, fall under this category. In some cases, these disorders may automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability once they are diagnosed and you may qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, which will enable you to start collecting Social Security Disability much sooner.
- Affective disorders. Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar, which are not the direct result of brain abnormalities often fall under this category.
- Anxiety related disorders. Both continuous and episodic anxiety related disorders may qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits, if it can be demonstrated that they make it impossible for you to work. Panic attacks and other forms of abnormal fears and phobias are all considered.
- Somatoform disorders. Mental illness which displays itself in symptoms of illness or injury for which there is no discernable cause.
- Personality disorders. Many mental illnesses fall under this category, which is defined by deviant inner experience and behavior which does not fit in with society as a whole. Common personality disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder and passive-aggressive disorder.
- Substance addiction disorders. This includes both alcoholism and drug addiction. It includes both addiction to prescribed medication and illicit drugs.
- Autistic/ Pervasive developmental disorders. Mental disabilities which affect communication, cognitive skills, behavior, and social skills.
The list of recognized mental disorders is not entirely complete. Any mental disorder which renders you unable to perform gainful work may be considered for Social Security Disability benefits.
Because diagnosing many mental disorders can be somewhat subjective, it can be difficult and time consuming to prove to the SSA that your mental disorder qualifies you as completely disabled according to the SSA definition. You will help your case immeasurably if you keep a running journal of how your mental condition affects your day to day life.
Make sure not to limit yourself to notating the ways in which your mental disability has hindered you on the job. The SSA, when determining whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, will take many of your daily activities into account, including your ability to stay focused on household tasks.
Is Mental Illness A Disability?
Mental illness can be considered a disability by the SSA. Mental illness and mental health conditions qualify for disability benefits from the SSA.
The SSA uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine eligibility. Mental disorders are evaluated under Section 12.00 of the Blue Book, which covers Mental Disorders.
These disorders are evaluated under their own specific listings. Here are some of the listings:
- 12.01 – Category of Impairments, Mental
- 12.02 – Neurocognitive disorders
- 12.03 – Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
- 12.04 – Depressive, bipolar and related disorders
- 12.05 – Intellectual disorder
- 12.06 – Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
- 12.07 – Somatic symptom and related disorders
- 12.08 – Personality and impulse-control disorder
- 12.10 – Autism-spectrum disorder
- 12.11 – Neurodevelopmental disorders
- 12.14 – Eating disorders
- 12.15 – Trauma and stressor-related disorders
Each listing has its own specific criteria that must be met for a disability claim to be approved per the Blue Book listing. You will need to provide hard medical evidence and other supporting documentation that confirms your condition meets the criteria.
Evidence will include physician notes, test results, and imaging reports when applicable.
Notes from a therapist or counselor can also be beneficial to a disability claim for a mental health condition. You will also need to show how the condition affects your daily lifestyle as well as your ability to work and earn a living.
Statements from relatives, coworkers, and educators can also be beneficial in a disability claim for mental illness or a mental health condition. The more evidence that you have to support your claim, the more likely you are to have a successful disability claim.
What Mental Disorders Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes several mental disorders that cause long term disability and may entitle the victim to disability benefits. The mental disorders that qualify for benefits can be found in Blue Book section 12.00. There are several categories of mental disorders that the SSA lists. These include the following:
- Substance addiction disorders such as alcoholism and drug addiction including being addicted to prescription drugs;
- Somatoform disorders which are mental illnesses which reveal a sickness or injury which may or may not be present;
- Psychotic disorders which include schizophrenia and paranoia may automatically qualify the victim for Social Security Disability. Some victims qualify for a Compassionate Allowance which means they are eligible to receive social security benefits as soon as possible;
- Personality disorders which are mental illnesses which when they affect people it makes it difficult for them fit in with society as a whole. This can include obsessive-compulsive disorder and passive-aggressive disorder;
- Organic mental disorders which include delirium, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, which affect the nervous system;
- Autistic/ Pervasive developmental disorders which are mental disabilities which may affect a number of skills such as communication, cognitive, behavior, and social.
- Anxiety disorders which are so bad that work is impossible;
- Affective disorders which are mood disorders which include depression and bipolar.
Any mental disorder which results in you unable to take part in gainful employment may be considered for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSA, when reaching a decision on your eligibility for disability benefits, will assess your ability to undertake daily activities as well as your chances of being employed.
Qualifying for SSDI and SSI With a Mental Health Disorder
If you have a mental health disorder and it can be found in the SSA’s Blue Book list, this offers you the chance to be eligible to receive disability benefits.
There are two types of Social Security disability benefits, one is Social Security Disability Benefits or SSDI and the second is Supplemental Security Income or SSI for mental health conditions.
To qualify for SSDI will depend on how many work credits you have accumulated and how old you are. You must have earned at least 40 Social Security credits to qualify for SSDI. You can earn these work credits when you work and pay Social Security taxes. In 2021, to gain one Social Security or Medicare credit you need to earn $1,470 every year. You must earn $5,880 to get the maximum 4 credits per year.
Credits are calculated based on your total wages and self-employment income for each year. You may work a whole year to earn 4 credits, or you may only have to work part of a year.
If you don’t qualify for SSDI you may be eligible for SSI. To qualify for SSI you need to be at least age 65 or blind or disabled and have the following:
- a limited income which includes wages or pensions, etc.;
- have limited resources (the assets you own).
The amount of income you can receive monthly and still get SSI depends partly on where you live.
How Much Does Mental Health Disability Pay?
The maximum amount you could be paid as a disability benefit depends firstly on whether it is paid through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The sort of disability you have, e.g. mental illness, does not affect how much your monthly benefit payment could be.
SSDI benefits are paid to people who have been in employment for long enough to have accumulated sufficient work credits to be eligible for this benefit scheme. The number of work credits depends on how much you have earned each year and whether your employer deducted social security insurance when you paid payroll tax. The maximum number of work credits is 4 in any given year of employment.
The actual payment through SSDI is determined by calculating your average earnings over the period you were in employment. This is called your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). The average benefit paid monthly ranges from about $800 up to $1,800, but each year this does go up a little dependent on the increase in the CPI. The maximum benefit through SSDI in 2022 is currently $3,148.
The other pathway through which a disability benefit may be paid is the SSI scheme. This is only available for those people who have not worked for long enough to have accumulated sufficient work credits to be eligible for SSDI. Other criteria taken into consideration are an assessment of assets and any other income.
This may include an assessment of the income of anyone you live with such as a spouse. A disability benefit through SSI will not be paid if you earn too much or have too much in assets. Currently, the average amount of monthly SSI benefit payment is $604.
Have your psychiatrist, medical doctor, and former employers write letters on your behalf detailing how your mental condition has affected your ability to work. You should also consider contracting a Social Security lawyer or advocate who has experience working with cases involving mental disorders.