How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
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Social Security Disability For Mental Disorders

Recently, someone asked in a disability forum if an individual can receive Social Security Disability for Mental disorders. Another individual in the forum responded and said:

“I work with this population, so first of all...they do not get very much money unless they have worked a long work history. Secondly, they are truly impaired and cannot work. Thirdly, a psychiatrist has to deem them unable to work and psychiatrists are not liberal in handing out disability determinations to people."

I would agree with this individual’s response to the question. However, regarding the statement "they do not get very much money unless they have worked a long work history", I should mention the following.

Social Security Disability benefit amounts are geared so that individuals who are younger and/or have worked less (and also those who have worked for a shorter time) might receive a higher benefit than other individuals who have plugged along at jobs that did not pay much for years.

It really depends on when an individual’s mental disorder began to prevent them from working. Some individuals never get started and thus they never become insured for Social Security Disability. Or, they earned just enough to be insured but had small earnings amounts (individuals earn their Social Security Disability insured status through their work earnings). In these cases, it is true that an individual will receive small disability benefit payments.

Secondly, it is clearly evident that individuals who suffer from mental disorders are just as impaired as individuals who suffer from physical impairments. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration handles this in a practical manner as it considers any mental or physical impairment to be severe if it simply prevents an individual from working at what it considers to be a substantial and gainful activity level.

Finally, it is absolutely true that many disability agency psychiatrists and psychologists (a disability determination services mental consultant can be either a Ph.D psychologist or a M.D. psychiatrist) do not support disability approvals in any liberal sense. And some, honestly, are adversarial toward claimants (I am reminded of a psychologist who was attached to one of my case processing units who, quite frankly, should have been fired for the opinions she put on cases).

Although, I would say that Social Security has gotten somewhat more realistic when making disability determinations based upon mental disorders.

For instance, there is currently a trend of fewer durational denials (Social Security gives durational denials for conditions that they feel will become non-debilitating within twelve months or less) for mental conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and more disability benefit approvals based upon anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental conditions.

Hopefully, this particular trend will continue so that individuals with mental conditions can receive the same consideration as those with physically disabling conditions, not just within the confines of Social Security Disability but within society in general.

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These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

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SSDI hearing decision
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Denied Social Security Disability appeal
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Tips for applying for disability

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.