Mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, depression or schizophrenia, can be as disabling as the loss of a limb. People who suffer from these conditions are frequently unable to work, and they often wonder if they are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The answer is a qualified “Yes,” depending upon the person’s symptoms and the ability to carry out gainful employment.
Proving disability. Eligibility for SSDI benefits depends on whether the illness or injury is permanent or is likely to result in death within 12 months. The second requirement for eligibility is the inability to engage in substantial gainful employment, which is defined by Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations as the inability to earn more than $1350 per month ($2,260 for blind persons).
Symptoms of mental illness.
The SSA refers to all mental illnesses as “mental disorders.” The SSA recognizes 11 categories of such disorders:
- Neurocognitive disorders
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
- Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders
- Intellectual disorder
- Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Somatic symptom and related disorders
- Personality and impulse-control disorders
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
- Eating disorders
- Trauma- and stressor-related disorders
If one of these disorders renders a person disabled within the meaning of the terms noted above, that person is eligible for SSDI benefits.
SSA regulations require the person who is claiming benefits to prove the existence of the disabling condition by submitting written medical evidence from a health care provider who is knowledgeable about the illness in question. In most SSDI cases involving a mental disorder, this evidence is provided by a treating psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or similar professional.
Disability can often be proved with testimony of the claimant’s treating health care professional. Other evidence may come from co-workers, a supervisor, or any person having knowledge of the applicant’s ability to perform his or her work.
Anyone who may be contemplating making a claim for SSDI benefits for a mental disorder may wish to consult an attorney who is knowledgeable about SSDI benefit applications. Such an attorney can assist with preparing the initial application, gathering and organizing evidence and handling any necessary appeal.