How Mental Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability

Almost nine million Americans get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because of disabilities that don’t allow them to work. What many don’t realize is that over 35 percent of people receiving Social Security Disability benefits get these funds because of mental conditions. If you or a loved one can’t work because of a mental illness, it’s important to understand how the system works.


To receive SSD benefits for a mental illness, you must show the Social Security Administration (SSA) that the disability interferes with you or a loved one’s ability to work. Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done, and without a Social Security Disability attorney or other representation, you could be denied benefits.

Fortunately, there are specific rules that the SSA uses to decide who receives benefits. Their evaluation will include reviewing medical documents, deciding how much the disability will interfere with your ability to work and whether the disability is likely to last a full year.

In order to receive Social Security Disability benefits, you‘ll have to meet prior work requirements. If you don’t meet these, you may still qualify for Social Security Income (SSI) benefits. The requirements of benefits eligibility are just about the same for disabilities related to mental illness and physical conditions, but unfortunately, it’s often more difficult to receive benefits for mental disabilities.


When it comes to receiving SSD benefits for physical disabilities, the case is often “open and shut.” Social Security Disability claims examiners can look at medical records and easily understand that a neck injury or amputated appendage will stop someone from working. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental illness, things are rarely this simple.

The difficulty arises because claims examiners at the SSA are not trained psychiatrists. Additionally, you’ve likely seen just how little the average person understands about mental illness. These facts can make your journey to collecting benefits an uphill battle, especially if you don’t have good representation.

Many mood disorders, for instance, are cyclical in nature. Some examples are bipolar disorder and a related disorder known as cyclothymia. Claims examiners may not understand these mental conditions, and because of this, they could wrongfully deny benefits over the belief that these disorders don’t meet the yearlong limit.

This makes it important to have representation that knows how the system works. The attorneys at Levine Benjamin have years of experience assisting people like you in receiving SSD benefits for both mental and physical conditions. We know that a lack of understanding of mental conditions could lead to a wrongful denial of benefits, and we can decrease the likelihood of this occurrence.

While having a Social Security Disability attorney could help you receive benefits, there are also a few things you can do yourself to improve your odds.


If you or a loved one suffers from a mental illness, you must first decide whether you qualify for disability benefits. The Social Security website lists nine types of disorders that qualify. These include everything from intellectual disabilities and psychotic disorders to substance abuse conditions.

If you fall within the criteria set by the SSA, you must make sure that the condition is documented. This means gathering as much evidence as possible. This includes prescriptions and medical records. This is where having help comes in handy. You’ll need to prove you suffer from a disability and that it actually prevents you from working.

A Social Security Disability attorney can help you gather all of this information and present it in a simple way. They can also help you understand the complex rules of the SSA. For instance, it’s important to know that claims examiners will take your daily activities into account, including those not related to work, when drafting their decision.

This means you could hurt your chances of receiving mental illness SSD benefits by doing simple daily activities. Understanding this complexity increases your odds of being rewarded benefits, and having representation could even help you receive benefits if you don’t suffer from one of the disabilities listed by the SSA.


Although having one of the listed mental illnesses increases your likelihood of securing benefits, not meeting these criteria isn’t necessarily the end of your claim. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests examining the criteria for other disabilities if your mental illness doesn’t qualify.

Additionally, numerous mental conditions, even those not listed by the SSA, can reduce your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the amount of work you can do based on your physical or mental disabilities. This is another reason why having experienced representation on your side can be beneficial. They’ll know all of the nuances that could help you receive benefits in one way or another.

Any type of impairment can be detrimental, but if you or a loved one suffers from a mental illness, getting the SSD benefits that you deserve can be difficult. That’s why Levine Benjamin considers every impairment, whether it be physical, mental or a combination of both, when fighting to secure benefits for those who need them.

If you or a loved one is unable to work due to a mental disability, contact us today at Levine Benjamin so we can help.


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