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Are SSD benefits available for mental illness?

As awareness of various types of mental illness spreads in Missouri and elsewhere, persons often wonder whether a mental disorder can be the basis for receiving Social Security Disability benefits. The short answer is “Yes,” but making an application and assembling and submitting the necessary evidence can be difficult.

The main difficulty with submitting an SSD claim for a mental disorder is the requirement that evaluation of a mental condition requires “documentation of a medically determinable impairment.” In other words, a qualified medical professional must provide a written opinion on the existence and effect of the mental condition. In addition, the Social Security Administration looks at the “degree of limitation such an impairment imposes on a person’s ability to work and the expected duration of the condition.

Most symptoms of mental illness are subjective, that is, they are revealed only by the statement of the patient. No objective test, such as an X-ray, blood test or CT scan exists to verify the mental condition at issue. The SSA Red Book lists 9 diagnostic categories of mental illness: organic mental disorders; schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders; affective disorders; intellectual disability; anxiety-related disorders; somatoform disorders; personality disorders; substance addiction disorders; and autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders. Each condition and the evidence necessary to verify its existence is described in detail in the SSA Red Book. As might be expected, the criteria are different for each separate condition.

Many people who suffer from mental illness will need assistance in submitting an application and in providing necessary medical evidence. An attorney who specializes in handling SSD disability claims can provide significant assistance in preparing the application and supporting medical evidence and in presenting the application to the SSA. A knowledgeable lawyer can also provide assistance in pursuing an appeal if the initial application is rejected.

Source: Social Security Administration Blue Book, Section 12.00 Mental Disorders – Adult,” accessed on May 23, 2016


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