How Do You Apply for Disability Benefits for a Mental Illness?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

While many associated disability benefits with those who have suffered physical illness or injury preventing them from being able to secure gainful employment, disability benefits are also available to those with qualifying mental illnesses. Some such mental illnesses may include bipolar or anxiety disorder. In fact, a variety of other mental illnesses that may prevent a person from maintaining gainful employment are eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These benefits can provide critical financial support to those in need of it. The benefits can go towards covering the expenses of everyday life, as well as medical bills, and other financial obligations. Once approved for disability benefits, the benefits will be paid out on a monthly basis. Getting your application approved for disability benefits, however, can be a challenge.

How Do You Apply for Disability Benefits for a Mental Illness?

The Social Security Administration Blue Book establishes those conditions which qualify a claimant for disability benefits as well as the guidelines for each condition. In total, there are nine mental disorder categories addressed in the Blue Book. These nine disorders are:

  • Affective disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism and related disorders
  • Mental retardation
  • Organic Mental Disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia, paranoia, and psychotic disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Substance addiction

Within these nine categories are separate sets of criteria that must be met in order for the mental disorder to qualify as a disabling condition that would qualify a person for the receipt of disability benefits from the SSA. In order to successfully apply for disability benefits for a mental illness, you must be able to support a claim that you meet all of the criteria set forth in the Blue Book or that your mental disorder completely prohibits you from retaining gainful employment.

The SSA must be able to find that you meet basic eligibility requirements such as a formal diagnosis of the potentially disabling condition that would disable you for a minimum of 12 months. Once these basic eligibility requirements have been satisfied, the SSA will review the details of your condition to verify that you meet all program requirements for disability benefits. This means that the SSA will carefully conduct a review of your medical records. Your medical records will be used to see if your condition matches the disability listing set forth in the Blue Book. The disability listing will detail severity level requirements as well as specific medical evidence that is required to support a claim for disability benefits.

You will also need to show that you are not only receiving continuous treatment for your mental illness, but that you are complying with a treatment plan set forth by your treating specialists. Continual receipt of treatment is important to the SSA disability application process.

Disability Attorney

At Disability Advocates, we know how much our clients are depending on the receipt of disability benefits for financial support. That is why we are committed to helping you. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.