Can You Apply for Disability Benefits for a Mental Illness?

therapy for a mental illnessIf you have been diagnosed with a mental illness that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for disability benefits. However, disability claims for mental disorders can be harder to prove compared to claims for physical impairments. Many people who apply for benefits for a mental illness are often denied.

To improve your chances of approval, we recommend seeking help from an experienced attorney. He or she can assist you with your claim and guide you throughout the process. Our Oshkosh Social Security Disability lawyers work hard every day on behalf of claimants to obtain the disability benefits they need.

Below, learn more about the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) eligibility requirements for mental illnesses. The initial consultation is completely free and confidential without any obligation involved.

Call (877) 888-5201 for Trusted Legal Help.

SSA Considers Mental Illness as a Disability

For the SSA to consider your mental illness as a disability, you must meet the medical requirements for a mental disorder in Section 12 of the Blue Book. The mental illnesses covered in the Blue Book include:

  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Depressive, bipolar and related disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Intellectual disorders
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Trauma and stressor-related disorders

It is important to note that every mental illness is evaluated based on its own set of criteria.

For instance, to be eligible for disability benefits for a neurocognitive disorder, you must provide medical evidence that documents a decline in functioning in one or more of the following areas:

  • Complex attention
  • Executive function
  • Language
  • Learning and memory
  • Perceptual-motor
  • Social cognition

In addition to meeting the medical listing in the Blue Book, you will also need to prove that your mental illness is so severe and persistent that you are unable to work full-time for an extended period.

Getting Approved for Disability Benefits

Claim examiners do not always understand the full scope of limitations that come with certain mental illnesses. Some claim examiners may even be biased against disability claims for mental illness. To have a chance at being approved for disability benefits, it is important to provide adequate medical evidence.

Diagnosis Must Be Specific

The SSA will require proof of your mental illness diagnosis. Your medical records, in this case from a licensed psychiatrist or another mental health professional, must detail your specific diagnosis.

For some mental illnesses, determining a specific diagnosis can be difficult. Symptoms of mental illnesses often overlap. Doctors may not have sufficient information to make a specific diagnosis. There are also no blood or other lab tests for mental illness. Even if you have undergone regular psychiatric treatment, you may be denied disability if your diagnosis is not clearly indicated in your records.

Probable Duration of Condition

Your mental health condition must be expected to last or has lasted for at least one year. Otherwise, your disability claim may be denied. It can be harder to receive benefits if you have a mental illness with symptoms that last for a shorter time or tend to improve with regularity, like bipolar disorder.

Medical Health Treatment

The SSA will review your treatment to identify whether attempts have been made to improve your mental condition. This includes the type, frequency and outcome of any treatment. The symptoms you have experienced, their side effects, and how they impair your ability to work will be evaluated.

If you have not sought mental health treatment or your treatment has been inconsistent or minimal, your disability claim may be denied. You must have a record of mental health treatment, but that can be hard for certain conditions. For instance, if you suffer from depression, you may have been just prescribed antidepressants from a primary care doctor without having been seen by a psychiatrist.

Compliance With Treatment

Be sure to take any prescribed medication for a mental disorder. The SSA will not be able to accurately measure your limitations if you are not taking your medications as prescribed. It is important to comply with treatment from your regular doctor, psychiatrist, and/or another mental health provider.

If you cannot afford the medications you need to treat your mental health condition, it is important to inform the SSA. Otherwise, your disability claim may be denied due to treatment non-compliance.

Your Ability to Work

If you apply for disability benefits for a mental illness, the SSA will look at your ability to work. While your medical records may show that you cannot return to work at your previous job due to your mental illness, your mental residual functional capacity may indicate that you can do other work. For younger disability claimants, the SSA may consider them capable of training to learn a different type of job.

If you are not working and collecting unemployment, this can make it harder to prove your claim. The SSA may think that you stopped working not because of your mental health condition but because of something else. That is why it is important to submit medical records and evidence that provide proof that you are unable to perform work-related activities that do not only apply to your previous job.

Reach Out to See If You Have a Valid Claim

If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and want to file a disability claim, Sigman Janssen is here to help. We are ready to gather the necessary evidence to support your diagnosis and inability to work. The initial consultation comes at no cost, risk or obligation to you.

Our firm also charges zero upfront fees to take on a case or work on a case. We only get paid for services rendered if we help you obtain the benefits you need.

Free Case Review: Ph: (877) 888-5201