When people think about Social Security Disability, they often imagine people who are unable to work due to physical limitations or permanent injuries. Many people do not understand that mental disorders are also a type of disability. The question is, do those who suffer from mental illness have the right to collect Social Security Disability? The answers to this question are not always straightforward, and those who can't work due to mental illness often are not aware of their rights.
Mental Illness Is a Disability
The Social Security Administration does indeed recognize mental illness as an impairment that may qualify someone for Social Security Disability. Some of the disorders recognized by the Social Security Administration include bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, affective disorders, severe anxiety, personality disorders and other forms of mental illness. It is important to understand, however, that just because someone may have a mental disorder that Social Security recognizes, it does not mean that the person will automatically qualify for Social Security Disability.
Proving a Disability
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and you want to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to be able to prove that your mental illness is severe enough to interfere with your ability to work. In order to do this, you will need to have doctor's records, psychological evaluations, proof of unsuccessful work attempts and testimony from family members as well as other contributing evidence. The government won't just take you at your word that you aren't able to work and that you need Social Security Disability. You're going to have to have the evidence to back it up.
When looking at whether or not someone with a mental illness can qualify for Social Security Disability, the Social Security Administration focuses on four basic things including your daily living skills, your social functioning, your ability to concentrate and any episodes of decomposition that you may have. They will be looking to see if you have a hard time taking care of your home or even your hygiene. They will want to know if you “melt down” when exposed to stress, whether or not you are able to act appropriately in social situations and how well you can concentrate on tasks.
If you believe you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the first thing you should do is get an actual diagnosis before you actually begin the application process. Without a diagnosis it will be nearly impossible for you to receive the benefits you may be entitled to.
Once you have a diagnosis that confirms your mental illness, you will be able to apply for Social Security Disability by contacting the Social Security Administration. It is important that you understand a diagnosis is not going to be enough in and of itself to qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. You must have proof that the mental illness is severe enough to prevent you from working. If you are unable to prove this, your application for benefits will likely be denied.
What Happens if the Answer is No?
If your application is denied, don't give up hope. You are not alone. It has been estimated that as many as 70 percent of the Social Security Disability and SSI claims that come in are denied each year. Does this mean you have to give up hope? Absolutely not. If you are disabled and feel that you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits, do not let an initial rejection steer you away from the benefits you need.
If you are denied Social Security Disability benefits, you have 60 days to appeal the decision that the Social Security Administration made. There are four appeal steps you can go through if your claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied. The first step is reconsideration. In it's simplest terms, you just ask the SSA to reconsider your request for Social Security Disability during this step of the appeals process. If that doesn't work, the next step is to request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. If that still doesn't work, you can request a review by the Appeals Council, and finally you can file a Federal Court complaint if all else fails.
If you are truly disabled due to severe mental illness, your chances of having to file a Federal Court complaint are slim as long as you have the documentation and evidence you need to support your claim. Just make sure you have all of your evidence in order. Talk to your doctors and family members. Keep notes on how your disability is affecting your day-to-day quality of life. If at first you do not succeed, consider the assistance of a Social Security Disability attorney to help your disability claim.