How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Social Security Disability For Mental Illness in California

Recently, in a forum, an individual asked the question, “What does it mean to be disabled when you are mentally ill?” And to that question, another individual responded with the following remarks, “If your doctor states that you are completely disabled, you will get benefits. But, you need to make sure your doctor gives you the right diagnosis. If you get diagnosed for just nerves, you probably will not get on. It needs to be for something like depression, or bipolar, or panic attacks to convince Social Security that you cannot work.”

The individual who responded to the question inferred that there are certain pat diagnoses that will garner an approval for Social Security Disability. As a former disability examiner, I can speak from experience that there are no specific mental diagnoses that will actually guarantee an approval for disability.

Residual functional capacity is what an individual is able to do in spite of the limitations of their impairment or impairments. And Social Security Disability is based upon an individual’s residual functional capacity rather than having specific medical or mental conditions.

Of course, it goes without saying that it is important, from a documentation standpoint, to have a medically determinable mental impairment. And since there are not too many mental health professionals treating patients on the basis of “nerves”, most individuals do receive a specific diagnosis of some kind.

The individual who responded to the question mentioned that a statement from your doctor would get your disability approved in California. Well, a statement from your treating mental professional can be helpful if it includes a diagnosis, prognosis, response to treatment, and what your functional limitations are. It does no good, however, to have your mental health professional just state that you are disabled. Your mental health treatment notes must substantiate your mental health professional’s statements.

As I said before, Social Security is more interested in how your mental condition prevents you from being able to perform substantial work activity than what your specific diagnosis is.

Social Security Disability examiners make their determinations based upon your medical treatment notes, your residual functional capacity, the requirements of your past work, and your ability or inability to be trained in some type of other work.

Some individuals have mental conditions that are so severe that they meet or equal a mental impairment listing in the Social Security Disability handbook (a book that lists various impairments and the specific criteria needed to meet a listing -- sometimes this is referred to as the Social Security Disability list of impairments) or the blue book). If an individual meets or equals a listing they are an automatic approval for disability.

Although the individual who responded to the question (“What does it mean to be disabled when you are mentally ill?”) above was correct in some of their answers, they were incorrect on others. Social Security Disability decisions are not about convincing a disability examiner to approve your claim; your disability claim must stand on its own merit. If the disability case evidence does not support a finding of disability under Social Security rules and guidelines your claim will be denied no matter what your specific diagnosis is, or for that matter what your physician’s statement said.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Filing for disability in California

How do I Apply for Disability Benefits in California

How long should you wait before you apply for disability?

SSD and SSI applications in California

What do you do if your California disability claim is denied?

Do you file for your children when you apply for disability in California?

Should you apply for disability in California after a denial?

How long does a disability case take in California

After you file for disability in California

Filing for disability in California and your condition

Filing a disability claim in California, long filing process

The California disability process

Do I need to be disabled a year in California to get disability?

The Social Security Disability process in California

California Disability determination process

Disability approval criteria in California

California Social Security Disability decisions

Steps to Win Social Security Disability benefits in California

Questions about disability in California

How much can you make in California and still apply for disability?

California Social Security Back Pay

Can Disability benefits be garnished in California?

Disability two year medicare waiting period in California

California review of Social Security Disability claim

California Social Security Disability status

VA disability and California Social Security Disability

Can a Congressman in California help on a disability case

How do examiners make disability decisions in California?

Applying for disability benefits in California

How long does disability take in California?

How long does it take to get a decision on a disability case in California?

Why do disability claims take so long in California?

How Long Will It Take To Get My Disability Decision If I Appeal in California?

Disability claims in California with certain conditions

Applying For Disability On the Basis of Back Pain in California

Filing for Disability with Fibromyalgia in California

Social Security Disability For Mental Illness in California

Winning California disability

Will a lawyer improve the chance to win disability in California?

Getting approved for disability in California

Winning disability in California

California Disability Lawyers and Representation

Getting a disability attorney in California

Finding a new disability attorney in California

Applying for SSI in California

Filing for SSI disability in California

SSI disability denied in California

Are SSI claims in California denied more than SSDI claims?

How to apply for SSI Disability in California

Doctors, medical records, and medical exams

Doctors and applying for disability in California

Can you be turned down for disability in California if your doctor says you are disabled?

Disability hearings in California

Disability Hearings in California

California quick disability hearing

How do I win my Social Security Disability Hearing in California?

How long does it take to get a disability hearing in California?

Disability denials in California

Disability Denied in California

If a disability claim is denied in California

Appealing a Social Security Disability denial in California

If you get denied Social Security Disability in California

Why are Most Disability Cases Denied in California?

Getting approved or denied for disability in California

Disability appeals in California

How do you file a disability appeal in California?

How many disability appeals do you get in California?

If your California disability appeal is denied, can you get another appeal?

If your disability reconsideration is denied in California

Filing a reconsideration appeal in California

Why was I denied disability in California?

Qualifying for disability in California

Qualifying for disability in California

Qualify for SSD in California

Will I Qualify For Disability Benefits in California?

Disability lawyers in California

Using a Social Security Disability Attorney in California

Cost of a California disability attorney

Why do disability lawyers in California sometimes not take cases?

Hiring a Disability Lawyer in California

Social Security Disability Attorney Fees In California

How do Disability Lawyers in California get paid their fees?

Should you get a disability lawyer before you get denied in California?

Lawyer for a disability hearing in California

Why was I denied disability in California?

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.