Can I Get Disability Based on a Mental Illness?

Submitted by Shane on

Many people assume that Social Security Disability benefits are only available to those who suffer from physical disabilities. This is definitely not the case. Those who suffer from mental illness may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if they meet the SSA's qualifying criteria. In fact, mental illness is the most common affliction among younger Social Security Disability applicants. There are, however, some things that you must understand before applying for benefits based on a mental illness.

First and foremost, you must have a solid diagnosis from a qualified psychiatric professional before you can qualify for Social Security Disability payments. You cannot just tell the SSA that you have bipolar disorder or anxiety disorder. You must have clinical evidence that you actually suffer from the condition. You must also be seeking treatment for the condition and must be adhering to the prescribed treatment that has been provided to you by your psychiatrist or therapist.

Your psychiatrist will play a key role in helping you obtain the Social Security Disability benefits you need. The longer a doctor has been treating you and the longer he or she has known you, the more likely you will be to obtain benefits as a result of their report (assuming your doctor feels that you are truly unable to work). Because of this, you should consult with your treating psychiatrist prior to filing a claim for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration.

Why Does Treatment Matter?

Before the Social Security Administration will provide you with Social Security Disability benefits, you must be able to prove that you are completely incapable of performing any type of work activity. If you are not following the treatment prescribed by your doctor, there is no way for the SSA to determine how severe your condition really is and whether or not you are actually able to work. Because of this, you will have to provide a complete copy of your psychiatric files to the Social Security Administration along with your treatment history in order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Retaining an Attorney

In many cases it can be crucial that a disability attorney represent an individual who is filing a claim for disability benefits. This is largely due to the fact that the application forms are complex and if you fill them out incorrectly, the SSA may determine that you are not actually suffering from a severe mental illness and can work in the national economy. It is best to have other parties fill out these forms on your behalf, such as close family members, treating psychiatrists and proper legal representatives.

Choosing a Representative Payee

Another thing you must understand is that it is not uncommon for the Social Security Administration to require a representative payee for individuals who are suffering from mental illness. This is largely due to the fact that most of the individuals who apply for disability benefits due to mental illness are unable to manage their finances on their own. As a result, someone must be chosen to manage their monthly benefits for them. You can choose your own representative payee, whether it be a family member or a non-profit organization who handles these matters.

While applying for Social Security Disability may seem like a complex and overwhelming process, you can obtain benefits due to a mental illness if you are diligent and persistent. If your initial application is denied, be sure to appeal the decision and consult with a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate. Often, denied disability applicants are able to move forward and successfully appeal the SSA's decision to deny their Social Security Disability payments.

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