Obtaining disability benefits for mental illness

Obtaining disability benefits for mental illness

| Jun 28, 2021 | Social Security Disability |

Many residents of the Buffalo area suffer from various kinds of mental illness, ranging from clinical depression to chronic bipolar syndrome. People who are afflicted with these diseases are frequently unable to work, and they wonder if Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are available to them. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has identified a number of mental and neurological conditions for which SSDI benefits may be available.

An overview of the SSA’s regulations

SSDI regulations devote an entire section to “Mental Disorders.” The various illnesses and conditions which are eligible for SSDI benefits are listed in 11 separate categories. The section for each illness or condition lists the symptoms that must be documented by the opinion of a licensed health care professional. For example, the section concerning depressive, bipolar and related disorders specifies nine separate mental conditions any five of which might lead to a diagnosis of depressive disorder. The section for bipolar disorder lists seven conditions, any three of which may lead to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

General requirements for a finding of disability

In addition to establishing the conditions for a diagnosis of a covered condition, the SSA regulations also provide general criteria for proving the disabling nature of the condition. The claimant must prove that he or she is prevented by the mental disorder from engaging in substantial gainful activity, which is defined by income levels. For 2021, a person is deemed to be disabled if he or she cannot earn $1,310 in a calendar year; for a blind person, the threshold is $2190. The disability must be total and must be determined to last at least one year or be likely to lead to death within 12 months.

Consulting an attorney when seeking SSDI benefits

Anyone who is considering seeking SSDI benefits for a mental health disorder or who may be wondering about seeking benefits for a family member or close friend may wish to consult an attorney who is experienced in handling SSDI claims. A capable lawyer can provide assistance in preparing and submitting the initial application and in handling an appeal if the claim is denied. (Most SSDI claims are denied during the initial application process; an appeal is usually necessary to obtain a favorable decision.)