What Mental Disorders Qualify for Social Security Disability?

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When you can no longer work because of a disability, your family may be under significant financial strain. If you do not have long-term disability insurance, your predicament can get a lot worse. The federal government offers disability benefits to those who can meet the tough standards through the SSDI program. Contact the Arkansas social security disability attorneys at Denton & Zachary for assistance with your benefits claim.

How the SSA Determines Social Security Disability Eligibility for Mental Disorders

Certain mental disorders may make you eligible for monthly financial benefits.

The Social Security Administration publishes a “Blue Book,” which is a list of conditions that will be eligible for disability benefits. The Blue Book is not an actual book, but it is a guide to the various categories of qualifying conditions and the medical criteria that apply to them. Most of these categories are physical conditions, such as musculoskeletal disorders and neurological disorders. In all, there are 14 categories of disorders in the Blue Book. If a disorder is not listed, it is not automatically disqualifying for benefits if you can show how you are disabled.

You will both need to show that you have a qualifying health condition and that you meet certain work requirements. These showings are not always easy to make. The SSA will take its own very close look at your medical records, and it may not defer to the opinion of your treating physician.

Mental Health Disorders in the Blue Book

There is one entire category of the Blue Book that is devoted to mental health disorders. This section is divided into 11 different subsections that include:

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

Even outside these conditions, there may be other mental health disorders that can allow you to receive benefits.

Each subcategory contains a detailed list of factors that the SSA will evaluate when you file a claim. They each include a definition and the symptoms that the SSA considers to be part of the illness. Your condition must meet the definition provided and the individual criteria.

How to Qualify for Disability Benefits with a Mental Health Disorder

If you are suffering from one of these illnesses, you will need to follow a series of steps before you can file a claim. You must be seeking treatment for the disorder and following all your doctor’s recommendations.

In many cases, the SSA will require that you have been dealing with your condition for two years or more. In other cases, you must show the individual symptoms that the agency considers part of the condition. The SSA expects that your condition will keep you from working for 12 months or more.

To file a claim, you will need documentation of your condition. For a mental health disorder, you should have extensive medical records that show your treatment of the condition and the doctor’s diagnosis. You can submit your claim online or go in person to an SSA office.

The SSA Is Very Difficult, Especially for Initial Claims

SSDI standards are notoriously tough, as the agency rejects a disproportionate amount of initial claims for benefits. SSA is difficult, even when the claim is based on a physical injury that can show up on an “objective” test such as an MRI or CT scan. The agency is even tougher on claims that it views as “subjective,” such as those based on mental health issues. SSA will rarely “take someone’s word for it.” Roughly 30 percent of initial disability claims are approved, meaning that you may have to fight to get benefits.

However, you can still obtain benefits, even in the face of an initial denial of your claim. SSA has established an appeals process that you can follow to have the denial reviewed. Your first step will be to file a request for reconsideration.

If that is denied, you are entitled to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Finally, you can take your case to federal court if you still have not obtained a favorable result.

An Overview of SSDI Benefits for Mental Illness

If you are successful in claiming SSDI for mental health disabilities, you will receive monthly benefits. The amount of your benefits depends in part on your prior earnings, and SSA will use a formula to calculate what you can get. Benefits range from $800 to $1800 per month, with the average benefit being around $1200 per month.

When you hire an experienced attorney, you can give yourself a better chance of qualifying for SSDI because they will help you avoid mistakes, and they understand what documentation is necessary to persuade SSA of your eligibility for benefits.

Contact an Arkansas Social Security Disability Attorney Today

To learn more about SSDI for mental illness and to get the answers to other questions that you may have about disability benefits, contact an attorney at Denton & Zachary today. We serve Little Rock, Cordova and Conway, Arkansas and offer free consultations to prospective clients. To speak with an attorney, you can send us a message online or call us at (501) 273-1695.


What standard will the SSA use to evaluate my disability benefits application?

The SSA needs specific medical evidence to establish that a claimant has an impairment. The SSA will require “objective medical evidence” from an “acceptable medical source.”

What if I cannot get objective medical evidence about a mental health condition?

This is the exact reason why you need an attorney. Mental health disorders are more subjective in nature. Of course, you will have the diagnosis of your treating doctor, but it can be challenged by the SSA.

How can I afford to pay a Social Security Disability attorney?

We know that your disability means that money is tight for you, and we do not ask you for any money upfront to represent you. We are only paid if you win your case.

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