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You can file for Social Security disability for a mental disorder or problem if it interferes with substantial gainful activity

You may file for Social Security disability or SSI for a mental problem or disorder, if it prevents you from performing substantial gainful work activity. Social Security does not differentiate between physical and mental problems; simply the condition is so severe that it prevents the performance of any kind of substantial work activity (SGA).

An evaluation on the basis of a mental disorder or problem requires an impairment that is documented by objective medical evidence, a consideration of the limitations that your mental disorder or disease imposes on your ability to work, and an evaluation as to whether these limitations will last for twelve continuous months or more.

In order to make this determination, disability examiners use a disability guide book that contains nine diagnostic mental impairment listings:
  • Organic mental disorders
  • Schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders
  • Affective disorders (depression and bipolar syndrome)
  • Mental retardation
  • Anxiety-related disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance addiction disorders
  • Autistic and other pervasive developmental disorders
Most of the mental impairment listings contain three paragraphs. Paragraph A contains the criteria needed to medically document the presence of a specific mental disorder. The listings give specific symptoms, signs, and lab findings needed to substantiate the presence of a certain mental disorder. Paragraphs B and C are used to describe functional limitations that are not conducive to the performance of gainful work activity.

If your mental disorder or problem meets or equals the criteria of an impairment listing, Social Security determines that you could not reasonably be expected to perform any gainful work activity. If your mental condition does not meet or equal an impairment listing in severity, then you may or may not have the residual functional capacity to perform substantial work activity.

The decision on your case would be dependent on what social security considers to be your mental functional capacity, referred to as your MRFC, or mental residual functional capacity.

A determination of your mental residual functional capacity is critical to the evaluation of your ability to perform SGA when your mental disorder or problem does not meet or equal the criteria of a specific impairment listing.

The mental residual functional capacity evaluation (MRFC) is a detailed description of work related abilities you have in spite of the limitations of your mental disorder. An assessment of your residual functional capacity is necessary to satisfy paragraphs B and C of most mental impairment listings.

The definition of Social Security disability is defined by three factors: a severe mental or physical condition, inability to perform substantial gainful work activity, and a twelve-month continuous period of disability. If you meet these criteria can file for and potentially be approved for Social Security disability or SSI benefits.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

Can You Get Approved For SSI or SSD Benefits IF You Have A Mental Condition But Do Not Take Medication?
Will Your Claim for Disability be Handled Differently if it is Based on a Physical or Mental Problem?
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
The Social Security Disability and SSI Process for Mental Claims based on Mental Disorders
When you file for disability and have both Mental and Physical Conditions
What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?
Are SSI and Social Security Disability Requirements Tougher For Mental Claims?
Social Security Disability, SSI, Mental Disorders, and Functional Limitations
Why is Charcot-marie-tooth not on the Social Security Disability list of impairments?
Tips for SSD and SSI disability hearings

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

File an application for disability
How to Apply for Disability - What conditions can you qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria