How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits with a Mental Illness

If you are experiencing a mental illness and can’t work because of the symptoms that you experience you can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits. Anyone who has worked at some point and paid taxes who also expects that they will be unable to work for at least a year because of the condition you are experiencing, you can file a claim for disability benefits.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits

All of the conditions that are eligible for benefits are listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. Each listing also has the requirements that the SSA has set that you must meet in order to get disability benefits based on that condition. For example, depression is one of the hundreds of physical and mental health conditions that are eligible for disability benefits. In order to qualify for benefits because of depression you will have to provide medical evidence proving that you have marked deficits in at least two of these areas:

  1. Activities of Daily Living
  2. Social functioning
  3. Your ability to maintain concentration, persistence, or pace
  4. Repeated, extended occurrences of deterioration in your condition

You must also have documented evidence that you experience at least four of these symptoms:

  1. You are unable to experience pleasure or you have a pervasive loss of interest in nearly all activities
  2. Significant changes in eating habits and weight
  3. Sleep disturbances
  4. Agitation or retardation of psychomotor function
  5. Decreased energy levels
  6. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  7. Suicidal thoughts
  8. Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  9. Hallucinatory episodes, delusions, or paranoid thinking

The medical documentation that you submit should include a doctor’s diagnosis of depression and PET scans or MRI scans as well as statements from a psychologist or therapist who can speak to the severity and number of the symptoms of depression that you have.

Medical-Vocational Allowance

What do you do if can’t work because of your mental illness but you don’t meet the Blue Book guidelines? This happens very frequently. You can still be eligible to receive benefits through a Medical Vocational Allowance. To get this exception you will need to have your doctor fill out a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation form. You can download the form from the SSA’s website. When your doctor fills out this evaluation they can write in detail about your symptoms and how they limit your ability to work. Then you will submit the RFC evaluation with your medical evidence and claim paperwork to the SSA.

The SSA will examine all of your paperwork along with your work history, your age, and other factors to see if they can find any type of job that you might be able to do with your current limitations. If they can’t find one, then you may be eligible for benefits.

Filing Your Claim

You can file a claim for disability benefits because online at any time. But if you have questions about how to fill out the forms, or need help submitting all of your medical documentation you may want to apply in person. Make an appointment at your local branch of the SSA and bring your questions and your documentation to the appointment. Someone at the SSA will answer your questions and help you submit your claim.

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