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Can mental illness serve as the basis for Social Security Disability payments?

By   /  March 3, 2016  /  406 Comments

Learn how to best present and pursue your claim for Social Security disability payments based on mental illness.

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Watch the Video: “Can mental illness serve as the basis for Social Security disability payments?”

Mental Illness as Disability

Social Security’s definition of disability includes coverage for mental illness; therefore, you can be approved for Social Security disability payments based on a mental illness, if your illness is disabling. You can also potentially qualify based on a combination of physical and mental limitations. For a discussion of how Social Security defines disability, see our article “What Is Disability According to Social Security Law?”

Medical Support for Your Mental Illness Claim

You and your physicians will need to provide documentation of any impairments that you have due to a mental illness. Your treating physician or psychologist will be asked to provide a report that includes your mental health history and clinical findings, including mental status examinations and psychological testing. The report should include a description of your capacity to understand, to remember and carry out and instructions, and to respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work pressures. Information is also needed about medications you have taken, their effectiveness, and any side effects you’ve experienced with the medication. If you have been hospitalized, Social Security may request your admit and discharge summaries.

Mental health records often contain very private information, so it is good to know that all information gathered by Social Security is confidential and cannot be released to a third party without your written consent. Additionally, information in your claim file, including your mental health records, will be seen only by those responsible for evaluating your claim.

Other Statements to Support Your Disability Claim

If you had problems related to your mental illness before leaving your last job, a statement from your employer or supervisor could be quite helpful to your claim. If you are having trouble taking care of your daily needs or engaging in social interaction, be sure to describe these problems when you file your claim. You can also submit statements from caseworkers, relatives or friends who are aware of how your symptoms interfere with your ability to take care of yourself and interact with others. For more information about employer statements, see our article “Would It Help My Disability Claim to Get a Statement from My Employer about My Problems at Work?”

When and Why Social Security Will Request You See a Doctor

If Social Security does not receive enough information from you, your treating physicians and psychologists, and others who know how your illness limits you, they may ask you to attend a Consultative Examination. Social Security will pay for the exam, which is for evaluation only, not for treatment. If you are asked to go to a Consultative Exam, it is extremely important for you attend and cooperate fully. If you do not, your claim for Social Security Disability payments may be denied.

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  1. Jane says:

    My husband has been dx with bipolar since 2011.from 2012 to 2014 he lost 3 jobs due to anxiety depression. The mood swings were bad.
    In 2014 applied for ssdi.the Dr kept changing med’s due to going from depression to manic. He was denied 1st time we got a lawyer. Still denied. The hearing the voc person said no employer would hire him missing at least 5 days a month.
    The judge denied him saying he can be sandwich maker and his depression is not that bad.
    He even changed pych Dr for second option after not getting better after being with that doc for 3 years.
    We are appealing the hearing decision.
    Now he has been rapid cycling and the dr tried to get it under control. My husband was cycling so fast and getting agitated . The pysch doc wanted him to go into hospital.
    My problem is if this does not do it then what else can we do?
    We have medical records,behavior records,and now pysch hospital.
    We are in Oklahoma.

    • Jane says:

      My husband is almost 49 years old.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jane,

      If your husband is not approved on the appeal currently pending at the Appeals Council, he can file an appeal in federal District Court. Talk with his lawyer about whether it is too late to submit statements from prior employers regarding the symptoms that caused them to terminate his employment and possibly other third-party statements from neighbors, relatives, etc.


  2. Malic says:

    I’m 41 dx with major depression,PTSD, generalized anxiety,insomnia and panic attacks
    That have changed my life 16 yrs . I’m afraid agoraphobia is next I won’t leave the house. I’ll go back to my psy doc next week. I can’t keep a job for more than 2 years with ALOT of abscesses with Dr’s notes on a regular basis.
    Would I even have a chance here in Oklahoma?
    Thank you

    • Malic says:

      I work in the medical field as a Medical Assistant. Im looking to leave the field but that cause my symptoms to worsen

      • Kay Derochie says:

        Dear Malic,

        My response is to both your posts. You reference a plan to work in a different occupation. If you are able to work in another occupation and earn $1,130 gross per month, you are not disabled as defined by Social Security law. That said, if you are of “advanced age” (fifty-five or older) or approaching “advanced age” and have worked as a medical assistant for most of your work career and can no longer do that work, you may qualify for benefits. I suggest that you talk with your psychiatrist and an experienced Social Security attorney to get their respective opinions on your ability to work and your claim prospects.


  3. Jason says:

    Well where to even start been depressed since the 5th grade
    my mom told me i was diagnosed with adhd or add but refused tratment so i don’t know if i would even have records of this i am 35 gonna be 36 years old never had a job in my life hardly ever leave the house for the past 15 years i feel like death is the only way out of this horrible life i bottle every thing up and don’t tell ppl any thing about this including my family and just have no ideal what to do any more i pretty much gave up on life

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jason,

      I encourage you to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability and also to get under the care of a physician to see if one of the many kinds of antidepressants could help you feel better. You can learn more about SSI by reading the articles under the SSI tab at the top of this webpage.


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