SSDI and mental disorders

There has been some discussion recently about the legitimacy of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with a mental disorder. Individuals and organizations who would like to change the SSD system believe the addition of multiple mental disorders in the past decades proves that Social Security Disability requirements are becoming lenient.

These claims are uninformed. Those who know someone suffering from a serious and debilitating mental disorder understand the crippling impact these disorders can have on a person's daily life, let alone their ability to work. These are real illnesses and those suffering from mental disorders usually face both mental and physical impairments.

Unfortunately for those individuals, the requirements are far from lenient. Applicants must not only have a disorder that prevents them from working and is expected to last more than a year or be terminal, but they must also prove that their disorder qualifies under the Social Security Disability Listing of Impairments (Blue Book).

Mental disorders are classified into nine categories:

  • Organic mental disorders
  • Schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders
  • Affective disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Anxiety-related disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance addiction disorders
  • Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders

To show that you have a mental disorder serious enough to prevent you from working, you may want to present some of the following evidence:

  • Medical evidence "from an acceptable medical source" that "shows a medically determinable mental impairment"
  • Evidence from relevant sources showing various stages of the disorder to help establish the level of severity
  • Proof of attempts to work and information regarding your behavior during those attempts
  • A mental status examination
  • Standardized psychological testing
  • Standardized intelligence testing or personality measures
  • Neuropsychological assessments
  • Screening tests
  • Documentation of phobic reactions, mental and physical manifestations of the disorder
  • Effects of medication and other treatment on your symptoms, signs and ability to function

This is only a brief list of the disorders that may qualify for SSDI and the evidence you may need to prove the extent of your disability. If you are unable to work because of a mental disorder, we recommend speaking with a lawyer experienced in SSDI.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security: 12.00 Mental Disorders - Adult," Sept. 2008.

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