Since mental health disabilities are more difficult to recognize than physical impairments, it can be challenging to prove your disability to the Social Security Administration (SSA) when applying for benefits. While it may take more time and effort to have your disability claim accepted, it is not impossible.
Mental Disabilities That Qualify for SSDI Benefits
According to the SSA Blue Book, the mental disorders that potentially qualify for social security disability benefits, when they prevent you from working, are divided into the following 11 categories.
Mental disorders that fall under the neurocognitive category include:
- Dementia of the Alzheimer Type
- Dementia due to a medical condition like Metabolic Disease, such as Late-Onset Tay-Sachs Disease
- Vascular Dementia
- Major Neurocognitive Disorder
- Neurological Diseases Such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsonia Syndrome, & Huntington Disease)
- Substance Induced Cognitive Disorders
- Progressive Brain Tumors
- Vascular Malformation
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection
Schizophrenia Spectrum & Other Psychotic Disorders
Mental disorders that are categorized under this section include:
- Delusional Disorder
- Psychotic Disorders due to another medical condition
- Schizoaffective Disorder
Depressive, Bipolar, & Related Disorders
Some of the most common mental disorders fall into this category including:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder I & II
- Bipolar of Depressive Disorder due to another medical condition
- Dysthymia, or Persistent Depressive Disorder
- Cyclothymic Disorder
The only mental disorder listed in this category is historically known as “Mental Retardation”, but can also be referred to as Intellectual Disability or Intellectual Developmental Disorder.
Anxiety & Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
This category includes several mental disorders commonly found in the U.S. including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Somatic Symptom & Related Disorders
The mental disorders that fall under the Somatic Symptom category include:
- Conversion Disorder
- Somatic Symptom Disorder
- Illness Anxiety Disorder
Personality & Impulse-Control Disorders
Mental disorders that are listed under this section include:
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
- Paranoid Personality Disorder
- Schizoid Personality Disorder
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder
- Avoidant Personality Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder
The two disorders that are evaluated in this category are:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder with or without accompanying language impairment
- Autism Spectrum Disorder with or without accompanying intellectual impairment
The following mental disorders are considered a part of the Neurodevelopmental section:
- Borderline Intellectual Functioning
- Tourette Syndrome and other tic disorders
- Specific Learning Disorder
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), approximately 30 million Americans struggle with eating disorders including the following:
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Disorder
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Binge-Eating Disorder
Trauma & Stress Related Disorders
Mental disorders evaluated in this category include:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Other specified trauma and stressor-related disorders
Common Reasons Why Mental Disability Claims are Denied
Around 70% of initial Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims are denied, with the majority of those involving mental illness. In fact, individuals applying for SSDI for mental disorders make up about 30% of all disability claims the SSA receives each year. There are several reasons why mental disability claims are more prone to denial.
Much of the Evidence is Subjective
Unlike physical disorders, you can’t diagnose mental disabilities with lab tests, x-rays, and scans. Mental illness is determined by a physician’s observation along with the patient’s own report of their symptoms over a period of time. It is difficult to obtain a successful disability claim without the hard evidence that can be provided with physical impairment claims.
Lack of Documentation from Treatment Providers
Proper documentation of your medical history, diagnosis, and treatment plans are crucial to receiving SSDI benefits. If the Social Security Administration isn’t provided a comprehensive report of your care, they cannot determine if you qualify for disability benefits.
Lack of Supportive Evidence
While medical documentation is critical to your disability claim, there are other forms of non-medical evidence that can help you state your case. You can also submit your own personal account of your impairments and limitations, letters from your family, former coworkers, or clergy advocating for your condition, as well as written testimonies from your group counselor or therapist.
Failure to Comply with Treatment
If your physician has diagnosed you with a mental disorder, you must continue with the treatment plan provided. Failure to adhere to treatment will result in the denial of SSDI benefits.
Improve the Chances of Receiving SSDI for Mental Illness
Accepting the fact that most disability claims submitted to the SSA are rejected is the most important step in the application process. Don’t give up – with time, dedication, and the proper documentation, you can increase your odds of obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. Follow these steps to improve your chances to obtain approval.
Make Sure You Fully Complete Your Application
Gather all of the necessary information needed prior to starting your disability application. The SSA has downloadable checklists that can be very helpful to ensure you don’t miss anything. An incomplete application is subject to denial.
Maintain Detailed Medical Documentation
Make sure to keep all of your documents in one place so you can easily access them. If you are missing any files, test results, or other documents, you can have your medical provider print them out for you. Keeping a journal of dates, therapy sessions, and interactions with health practitioners can help enhance your case.
Continue All Treatment Recommendations
The SSA will want proof that you are doing everything in your power to improve your condition. Attending all scheduled sessions, appointments, and any adhering to any other aspects of your treatment plan is vital to obtaining a successful outcome.
Hire an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney
Evidence shows that having legal representation when navigating the benefits process greatly improves the chances of the SSA approving your claim. Most Social Security Disability attorneys do not charge a fee until they have won your case so there is no money out of pocket when you begin the process.
The Cunningham Law Group: Experienced & Compassionate
You don’t have to journey through the complicated disability benefits process alone. At the Cunningham Law Group, our dedicated team of legal experts are extremely familiar with Social Security Disability claims and will continue to fight for the benefits you deserve. From the time your application is submitted right on through the appeals process and beyond, you can depend on our compassionate disability lawyers to advocate on your behalf.
If you or a loved one needs to file a disability application, or has already been denied, give the Cunningham Law Group a call to schedule your free, no obligation consultation today.