While most people apply for disability benefits when they struggle with a physical medical condition, it is possible to collect benefits for a mental illness. Unfortunately, it is even more difficult to collect benefits for a mental illness than it is for a physical condition, so if you are struggling with a mental illness, it is critical to speak with an experienced Social Security disability attorney who can help you file a claim.
When evaluating whether a condition falls under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) definition of a disabling condition, a representative of the agency will refer to the official list of impairments. This list contains medical conditions that Social Security recognizes as being inherently disabling. This means that the agency automatically accepts that someone who suffers from a listed condition is unable to participate in substantial gainful activity. The examiner will evaluate whether an applicant’s symptoms meet the criteria of a specific mental condition, and if they do, he or she will be eligible to collect benefits.
The SSA’s listings for mental disorders are divided into the following categories:
- Neurocognitive disorders;
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders;
- Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders;
- Intellectual disorders;
- Anxiety and OCD;
- Somatic symptom disorders;
- Personality and impulse control disorders;
- Neurodevelopmental disorders;
- Eating disorders; and
- Disorders related to trauma or stressors.
SSA examiners review a claimant’s medical records to determine whether his or her condition falls under one of these categories. Disability examiners also base their decisions on the clinical notes of mental health professionals and third party questionnaires. These questionnaires are completed by a claimant’s friends and family members who must answer questions about the claimant’s condition and normal daily routine.
Residual Functional Capacity Assessments
Fortunately, even if a disability is not included on the SSA’s list, claimants who have been diagnosed with a chronic mental condition may still be eligible for benefits if it prevents them from working. However, before a claim for benefits will be approved, the examiner will first evaluate a claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment, which helps determine what kinds of work activities a claimant can participate in despite impairment or treatment. The SSA considers four different areas of functioning to determine a mental RFC, including:
- Understanding and memory, which evaluates how well a claimant can understand, remember, and carry out instructions;
- Social interactions, which refers to a claimant’s ability to interact appropriately with other people over a period of time;
- Concentration and persistence, which evaluates how well a claimant is able to focus on interests and activities; and
- Adaptation, which involves a claimant’s ability to respond to normal work pressures.
If, after reviewing the evidence, the SSA decides that the disorder-related symptoms are so limiting that a claimant cannot perform any type of job, he or she can begin receiving benefits under a medical vocational allowance.
Call Today to Schedule a Free Consultation With a Social Security Disability Attorney
Please call The Comerford Law Office, LLC at 312-863-8572 if you are struggling with a mental illness and believe that you may qualify for disability benefits. A member of our legal team is standing by and eager to address your questions and concerns.