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Social Security Disability Benefits for Mental Disorders

Individuals (claimants) may request Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) based on mental health disorders or impairments. Claimants may qualify for benefits if the following facts are proven:

  • The “severe” mental disorder significantly limits the claimant’s ability to work;
  • There is medical evidence establishing a recognized diagnosis or mental illness; and
  • The condition and its disabling symptoms are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

Mental Disorder Diagnostic Categories in the SSD Listings

The SSA uses “Listings” to define disability. Although the “Listings” for qualifying mental disorders for children under age 18 are similar to those for adults, each set of mental disorder “Listings” is customized by age group.

Adult Mental Disorders

Adult mental disorders, as outlined by the SSA, are divided into the following categories:

  • Organic mental disorders (i.e. disorientation to time and place; memory impairment; hallucinations; change in personality)
  • Schizophrenia, paranoid, and other psychotic disorders
  • Affective disorders (depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.)
  • Mental retardation
  • Anxiety-related disorders
  • Somatoform (sleep) disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance addiction disorders
  • Autistic disorder, and other pervasive developmental disorders

To assess and prove adult disability, documentation of the medically determinable mental impairment(s) is required, as well as expert assessment of the degree to which such limitations may interfere with the claimant’s ability to work. Proper assessment will include medical evidence containing treatment history, symptoms (frequency and severity), assessment of functional capacity, and laboratory and psychological test results.

The SSA will also evaluate whether an adult’s mental disorder has persisted at a disabling level or is anticipated to persist at a disabling level for at least 12 months. Moreover, in assessing the severity of a person’s mental illness, the SSA will examine the following areas of functioning: activities of daily living; social functioning; concentration, persistence, or pace; and episodes of decompensation (worsening of symptoms usually resulting in hospitalization).

Childhood Mental Disorders

Children may qualify for SSI based on mental illness. The most common mental disorders affecting children include:

  • Organic Mental Disorders (i.e. developmental arrest, delay or regression; memory impairment; hallucinations; paranoid thinking; depression; hostility)
  • Schizophrenia, Delusional (Paranoid), Schizoaffective, and Other Psychotic Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Mental Retardation
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Somatoform, Eating, and Tic Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Psychoactive Substance Dependence Disorders
  • Autistic Disorder and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Developmental and Emotional Disorders of Newborn and Younger Infants (Birth to attainment of age 1)

Medical evidence of disability is required, as well as documentation regarding the frequency, severity and duration of signs and/or symptoms, and laboratory, psychological and/or developmental test findings. In addition, documentation of functional limitations at various stages of a child’s maturation is also required.

When a child’s mental illness does not “meet” or “equal” the requirements of a “Listing,” SSA will evaluate the child’s functional limitations to determine if the child is “disabled” and entitled to SSI benefits.

Securing Social Security Disability Benefits

Marasco & Nesselbush is Rhode Island’s premier Social Security Disability law firm. Our skilled RI Social Security Disability lawyers have successfully obtained disability benefits for thousands of individuals with mental disorders and other qualifying medical conditions. We understand how challenging and complicated the Social Security Disability application and appeals process can be, and our attorneys are prepared to appeal each case for as long as necessary to secure for you the disability benefits you need and deserve. Our firm is committed to providing our clients with exceptional client service and extraordinary legal results. To learn more about how we can help, please call 401-274-7400 or fill out a web case evaluation form today to request a free, confidential consultation.