Social Security Disability and Mental Health Problems

April 10, 2012
By Louis B. Lusk on April 10, 2012 9:44 AM |

If you have a medically determinable mental illness and cannot work, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Contrary to popular belief, there are no specific mental diagnoses that will guarantee the approval of disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) ultimately bases its decision upon your residual functional capacity, or the most you can do despite your limitations.

The SSA will evaluate your medical records, the requirements of your previous jobs, and your ability to perform other types of work in order to make its decision. The SSA will also evaluate your ability to function on a sustained basis, the amount of supervision you require, and your ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively. Furthermore, your mental illness must have lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months for you to be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

Your functional limitation will be rated in the four following areas: social functioning, daily living, concentration, and episodes of increased symptoms. If your mental condition causes you to suffer limitations in at least two of these areas, evaluators will then try to determine if you meet or equal a mental impairment listing in the Social Security disability handbook, also known as the Blue Book. If they determine that you meet or equal a listing, you will be approved for benefits. The SSA divides mental health disabilities into the following nine categories:

1. Organic disorders - disorders stemming from brain dysfunctions that result in physical or behavioral abnormalities
2. Affective disorders - disorders that cause a prolonged disturbance of mood, as well as a partial or full manic or depressive syndrome
3. Mental retardation - disorders characterized by a significantly below-average level of general intellectual functioning
4. Personality disorders - disorders characterized by long-term, harmful personality traits that lead to significant functional impairments in social and work settings
5. Substance addiction disorders - disorders that cause behavioral and physical changes associated with the abuse of substances that affect the central nervous system
6. Autistic and other developmental disorders - disorders characterized by developmental deficits of social interaction, imaginative activity, and verbal and nonverbal communication skills
7. Somatoform disorders - disorders that cause physical symptoms for which there are no known physiological mechanisms or organic findings
8. Schizophrenic, paranoid, and other psychotic disorders - disorders characterized by the onset of psychotic features and deterioration from a previous cognitive level
9. Anxiety-related disorders - disturbances caused by an attempt to resist obsessions or compulsions or master symptoms

If you believe that one of the above disorders has prevented or will prevent you from working for at least 12 consecutive months, set up a free consultation with Atlanta Social Security disability lawyer Louis B. Lusk today. Even if your mental condition does not fall into one of the above categories, you still may qualify for benefits if your condition is disabling enough to affect your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.

We can assist you in determining whether you qualify for disability benefits and help you prepare your application. Contact us for more information by calling 800.883.7043 or filling out our online contact form.