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Social Security Disability for mental health issues

| Apr 18, 2014 | Social Security |

Individuals dealing with mental health issues in Illinois can apply for benefits from the Social Security Administration’s disability program. Benefits may help to alleviate the strain brought about by an inability to get or keep a job due to mental illness.

Recognized types of mental illnesses

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 26.2 percent of adults in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental disorder each year. The number of individuals with severe mental disorders is smaller, at just less than 6 percent.

Social Security Disability has organized an official list of impairments, mental and physical, known as the Blue Book. It recognizes these severe illnesses as being inherently disabling, so that individuals who prove that they suffer from one of these disorders and are unable to work may receive full disability benefits. Some of the current mental health issues listed within the book include the following:

  • Depression and bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Mental retardation
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autistic disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders 

The Blue Book is not considered to be fully comprehensive, so claimants whose illness falls outside of the classifications found within the book may still be able to successfully apply for benefits. 

An inability to work

With the government approving only 37 percent of all initial disability claims in the U.S., and an even smaller number of mental illness claims, individuals must clearly show how their lives and ability to work are negatively impacted by their illnesses during the application process.

Many forms of mental illness are incompatible with a traditional work environment.  Disorders may  prevent people from working, due to environmental stimuli, lack of concentration and/or stamina, difficulty interacting with others, or an inability to handle time constraints or multiple tasks. Mental illnesses affect people in individual ways, and many symptoms manifest differently in each person, so claimants should be vigilant in documenting how their disorder affects them in this area.

SSA’s eligibility guidelines

Case workers look at claimants’ work histories and medical records to determine previous skill sets and whether their mental illnesses have diminished those skills. To be approved for SSD, people must clearly document their mental illness, describe how it limits their work, and show that their illness has lasted or will last for a continuous period of 12 months or longer. SSD has classified each recognized disorder and claimants must meet or exceed the minimum requirements of each classification to be eligible for assistance.

SSD claims workers are not licensed physicians or psychiatrists, and often do not have a clear understanding of the scope of many mental illnesses. Due to their cyclical nature, these disorders often result in brief periods of dissipated symptoms, leading uneducated claims workers to believe that the individuals no longer suffer from an illness and should thus be denied eligibility. People making a disability claim due to mental health issues should contact an experienced Illinois disability attorney to discuss their claim and underlying situation.