Social Security Disability for mental impairments Social Security Disability benefits may be available for both physical and mental illnesses.  In fact, many people apply for Social Security Disability for mental impairments such as depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder.  The unfortunate fact, though, is that these types of claims can be more difficult to get approved.  However, understanding the type of evidence you will need to support your claim, can make a big difference.
Basic Requirements for Disability Benefits
Regardless of whether your claim is based on a physical or mental illness, you must be able to prove that it is so severe that it stops you from being able to sustain a full-time job.  This is often referred to as “substantial gainful activity.”  Generally speaking, you must show that you are unable to work at or over the SGA or “substantial gainful activity” level for at least a year. This year, the SGA is defined as earning $1,090 a month working.  This amount is typically adjusted every year to reflect inevitable changes in the economy.
What types of mental symptoms are approved?
Unfortunately, there are no specific mental health symptoms that, if shown, will guarantee approval for disability for benefits.  Social Security sees mental impairments, essentially in the same way they do physical impairments.  That is to say, the focus is on the individual’s functional capacity to work, rather than the specific diagnosis or impairment.
What is Functional Capacity?
Social Security considers various information when evaluating mental impairments, such as medical evidence and information regarding the applicant’s daily living activities.  Social security also assesses the applicant’s social functioning, as an indicator of the severity of the mental impairment.  Can the applicant interact with the public, with family and friends, and is the applicant able to function independently and appropriately with others.  These are important factors in a workplace environment.  Consequently, if the applicant is unable to interact appropriately, then his or her ability to maintain gainful employment is likely to be significantly impaired.
Social Security’s listed mental impairments
Social Security has a disability handbook which provides the criteria for considering various mental disorders as disabilities. A few examples include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • mental retardation
  • anxiety-related disorders
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • substance addiction disorders
  • autism

If the applicant’s condition meets the requirements of any one of these listed disorders, he or she will automatically be granted disability benefits. Still, there must be proof that the symptoms of these disorders limit the applicant’s activities of daily living or ability to function socially. In other words, a mere diagnosis is insufficient.  For a complete listing, see the Social Security Disability Bluebook.
If you have questions regarding mental illness or impairment, or any other Social Security Disability concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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