Although the mental health disability criteria to obtain Social Security disability (SSD) benefits are like those required for physical disabilities, the Social Security Administration evaluates them somewhat differently. Here, we discuss the elements Social Security looks for when deciding whether to accept a mental health claimant’s application for disability benefits.
In order to qualify to receive disability benefits for a mental health claim, you must first have a condition diagnosed by a doctor. After that, you must prove that your mental disorder prevents you from doing any of the work that you’ve done before and that you cannot reasonably be trained for other work available at the time of your disability. Additionally, your mental disability must be expected to be long-lasting, at least one year.
As they do for physical disabilities, Social Security has a blue book that lists criteria for recognized categories of mental illnesses. If you meet the “listings” for one or more of these mental disabilities, you will be awarded disability benefits. Social Security classifies mental disabilities in the following categories: organic disorders; anxiety-related disorders; autistic/pervasive developmental disorders; psychotic disorders; mental retardation; affective disorders; substance addiction disorders; somatoform disorders; and personality disorders.
The above categories do not present an exhaustive list of mental health conditions. Even if you do not meet one of the listings, that does not mean you cannot qualify to receive Social Security disability benefits for a mental disorder. If you can prove that your mental disorder keeps you from performing gainful work, you could still be awarded benefits.
Unfortunately for mental disability sufferers, the diagnoses of mental disorders tend to be far more subjective than diagnoses of physical disabilities. It can be more difficult and time-consuming to prove to Social Security that your condition renders you completely disabled and unable to work. Applications for cognitive, psychological, psychiatric, and emotional conditions are, however, often approved on appeal at the hearings stage. Because of the added difficulty of qualifying for SSD benefits, an applicant may want to retain an experienced SSD attorney.
As part of your mental disability application for benefits, you will have to provide information regarding your Mental Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to show that you are incapable of performing simple, unskilled work. Social Security will also use the Psychiatric Review Technique Form (PRTF) for every mental disability claimant.
Social Security will, of course, evaluate the presence of a mental condition, but it will also evaluate how your ability to perform daily tasks, such as shopping, paying bills, cooking, and taking care of personal hygiene, is affected by the disability. It will also look at your social functioning as a result of your disability. Does your mental condition severely affect your ability to interact with your friends, your family, your neighbors, or the public at large? If you cannot function appropriately, independently, and effectively with others, Social Security will likely approve you for benefits.
When it comes to deciding which medical records to send to Social Security, be sure to include records from any treating counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers. Also provide records from any hospitalizations or emergency room visits that were the result of your condition as well as any pharmacy records. If you do not have sufficient medical records to prove your disability, Social Security may send you for a psychological evaluation.
If you are able to prove your mental disability, are awarded Social Security benefits, and have limited income, you may also be entitled to an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that depends on your income and the number of children who are dependent on you. Unlike a deduction, the EITC reduces the amount of taxes you will have to pay. In 2019, the income limit for a single person with no qualifying children was $15,570 ($22,370 if you are married and filing jointly), and the limit income for a single person with three or more qualifying children was $46,884 ($55,952 if you are married and filing jointly).