Many different kinds of mental illnesses can be debilitating, and they can interfere with a person’s ability to work and can even prevent a person from working altogether. If you have a mental illness, you may be wondering if it will qualify you for Social Security disability benefits. Generally speaking, it is important to know that a mental illness may meet the definition of a disability that is used by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Accordingly, you could be eligible to receive disability benefits based on a mental illness. However, you should not automatically assume that a mental illness will result in disability benefits. It will be critical to understand how the SSA’s definition of a disability and the SSA Blue Book will impact whether your illness qualifies you for benefits.
SSA Blue Book and Mental Health Disorders
When a medical condition is listed in the SSA Blue Book, then it ordinarily meets the definition of a disability that is required to obtain Social Security disability benefits. The Blue Book lists mental disorders under Section 12.00, which are arranged in a total of 11 different categories:
- Neurocognitive disorders;
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders;
- Depressive, bipolar and related disorders;
- Intellectual disorder;
- Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders;
- Somatic symptom and related disorders;
- Personality and impulse-control disorders;
- Autism spectrum disorder;
- Neurodevelopmental disorders;
- Eating disorders; and
- Trauma- and stressor-related disorders.
Given that there are many specific mental disorders listed within each category, it will be important to determine whether your disability is specifically listed, and then to determine whether you meet the required criteria for that disorder to be eligible for disability benefits. This is not a determination you will likely be able to make on your own, but rather is one that you should make with assistance from your health care provider and from a disability benefits attorney.
When Your Mental Illness Is Not Listed in the Blue Book
If your mental illness is not one of the conditions or diseases listed in the Blue Book, you are not automatically disqualified from receiving disability benefits. Even if your illness or disease is not expressly cited in the Blue Book, you could still be eligible for disability benefits if you meet the SSA’s definition of a disability.
Under federal law, a disability for purposes of receiving SSDI or SSI benefits is understood to mean “the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” In addition, federal law requires that “you must have a severe impairment(s) that makes you unable to do your past relevant work . . . or any other substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.”
Contact an Arizona Disability Benefits Attorney Today
If you have questions about seeking disability benefits due to a mental illness, one of the experienced Arizona disability lawyers at our firm can assist you. Contact Pekas Smith to learn more about how we can help you with your disability benefits application.