SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
Social Security Disability and SSI Questions and Answers
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
More questions about SSD and SSI
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
The social security administration receives disability applications for practically every type of impairment known to exist. Mental impairments, conditions, or problems, are divided into two camps: those that are psychiatric and those that are psychological.
Psychological problems are those for which there may be an organic cause and for which psychological testing--such as IQ testing and memory scales--is often used to gauge the extent of the condition, such as autism, mental retardation, alzheimer's disease, borderline intellectual functioning, traumatic brain injury, and long and short term memory loss.
Psychiatric conditions include those problems that most people with think of in unison with counseling and medication such as: anxiety related disorders, affective disorders (depression and bipolar disorder), personality disorders, and schizophrenia, paranoid, and other psychotic disorders.
Regardless of the condition, however, the evaluation process for a claim involving mental problems is fundamentally no different from a claim involving only one or more physical impairments. The standard for determining whether or not an individual will qualify for mental disability benefits (under either the social security disability or SSI disability program) is the following:
1. Is the condition medically determinable? (meaning, can it be substantiated through medical documentation which might include physician's notes, lab testing, imaging studies, blood work, etc).
2. Is the condition severe? This is a subjective judgement to some extent, but disability examiners (the individuals who decide claims at the disability application and request for reconsideration levels) and disability judges (who deliver decisions at social security hearings) must sometimes differentiate between severe and non-severe impairments.
If a claimant files for disability but is not found to have a single severe condition, their claim will be denied for NSI, non-severe impairment.
What is a non-severe impairment? The phrase alone is somewhat self-explanatory; however, a good way to think of a non-severe impairment the way that the social security administration looks at such an impairment is simply to state that a non-severe impairment is one that does not impose functional limitations and which does not reduce the range of activities (many of which may be related to the ability to work) that the claimant can engage in.
3. Does the claimant have an impairment that satisfies the severity requirements of a condition that is listed in the social security disability list of impairments? Otherwise known as the blue book, this is a listing of certain mental and physical conditions along with their approval criteria. This book also functions as a handbook for disability examiners, social security judges, and disability attorneys. Most medical conditions are not listed in the blue book. Therefore, if a person does not meet or equal the requirements of a blue book listing, their claim can still be considered under the following step.
4. Will the claimant's condition prevent them from working at any job at what SSA considers to be a substantial and gainful activity level for at least one full year? This is the durational requirement of both the social security disability and SSI disability programs. The state of disability must be so severe that the claimant cannot maintain employment for at least one year at one of their past jobs, or at any other type of work, while earning SGA (substantial gainful activity) level wages (SGA limit).
If, during the processing of a disability application or appeal, it can be shown (via the medical records and statements that are obtained from the claimant's treating physician or physicians) that the claimant satisfies all the disability criteria listed above, they will be considered to fully meet the social security administration's definition of disability and should expect to receive a social security notice of award.
The Social Security Disability and SSI Process for Mental Claims based on Mental Disorders
Social Security Disability and SSI Mental Claims and Criteria
Return to: SSDRC, or the Social Security Disability Questions page