The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits both to people with physical disabilities and to those with mental impairments. However, obtaining Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits for mental illness is often more difficult for a variety of reasons.
First, mental illness is simply harder to diagnose - you can't see it, can't really measure it, and can't define it as easily as many physical impairments. Moreover, some mental illnesses come and go or are cyclical in nature, making a diagnosis harder still. Finally, the claims examiners who review initial benefit applications are not psychiatrists; if the Social Security Disability benefits application is not clear and specific about how the mental illness affects the applicant's ability to work, the initial application may be turned down.
In addition, some claims examiners may be disinclined to approve mental illness claims - even the most complete application may be denied simply because of the prejudice of the examiner.
The SSA classifies covered mental illnesses into nine categories that require applicants for benefits to demonstrate in detail how the illness prevents them from working. For example, a claim for disability benefits because of a mood disorder would require the claimant to show:
- Medical evidence of at least four of the symptoms listed in the Social Security blue book
- Documentation that shows how these symptoms have affected at least two areas of function: daily living, social functioning, concentration or decompensation
This overview of the requirements understates the challenges of applying for benefits for mood disorders; there are at least 25 different criteria that can be used to demonstrate symptoms and how they affect someone's ability to work.
Because of the complexity of applying for benefits for mental illness, it is important to have a specialist who can guide you through the process. At Binder & BinderTM, the National Social Security Disability Advocates, we know how to structure claims and appeals for SSD benefits for mental illness. We understand the requirements of the Social Security Administration and use our knowledge to obtain the benefits our clients need and deserve.
Source: Social Security Online, "Disability Programs." Disability Programs