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How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits for Mental Health

social security disability benefits for mental health

If you or someone you love has a mental health impairment, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits to people of all ages who are unable to work due to a serious illness. While it can be challenging to qualify with a mental health disorder, a staggering 19% of disability recipients do have a mental illness, so it’s more than possible to be approved.

Medically Qualifying for Disability

The SSA uses its own medical guide, known colloquially as the Blue Book, when evaluating disability applicants and determining if they’re impaired enough to receive benefits. All listings for mental health disorders can be found under Section 12.00 of the Blue Book.

Medical criteria needed for approval varies depending on your condition, but all mental and mood disorders require a fair amount of evidence for approval. For example, depression will qualify if you have at least five of the following symptoms:

  1. Depressed mood
  2. No interest in activities or hobbies
  3. Weight or appetite change
  4. Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  5. Psychomotor agitation
  6. Decreased energy
  7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  9. Thoughts of death or suicide

Additionally, someone with depression will also need medical evidence showing extreme difficulty/inability performing any one of the areas of mental functioning, or marked difficulty with any two of the following areas:

  1. Understanding, remembering, and applying learned information
  2. Interacting with others
  3. Concentrating and completing tasks
  4. “Adapting” oneself, which essentially means controlling emotions in appropriate settings

The entire Blue Book can be found online, so you can review the listings for mental health disorders with your doctor or therapist to get a better idea as to whether you’ll qualify for Social Security.

12 Months and Disability Benefits

It’s important to note that the SSA will not approve any applicants who do not expect to be out of work for at least 12 months. This means that many applicants with mental illnesses that are temporary or seasonal (like seasonal affective disorder) will likely not qualify. You’ll need to have medical evidence showing that you’ve attempted to improve your mental health with no avail and do not have any likelihood of making a strong recovery within one year to be approved.

Starting Your Application

The easiest way to apply for Social Security disability benefits is online from the comfort of your home. If you’re unable to finish at once, you can save your progress to be completed at a later date. If you’d prefer, you can also apply in person with help from a local SSA representative. You can schedule an appointment to apply at your local office by calling the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

Once approved, you can focus on what matters: your recovery.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

Contact a Resource Specialist

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ or by emailing them at help@ssd-help.org.

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The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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