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SSDI Benefits for Workers Suffering From Mental Illness

A common misconception about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits is that an individual needs to suffer from a major physical impairment to qualify. However, the truth is that the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) also realizes that emotional and cognitive impairments can hurt the ability of individuals to obtain and keep meaningful employment. If you suffer from a mental disorder that hinders your ability to work, SSDI benefits may be an option for you.

Basic requirements for disability benefits

In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you need to be able to show that your mental illness hinders your ability to sustain a full-time job or substantial gainful activity (SGA). The Social Security Administration defines SGA as earning a certain amount of money monthly from working. This year, Social Security defined SGA as earning at least $1,130 every month. However, the SGA amount is changed every year to reflect changes in the economy.

Applicants must have a history of paying taxes to the SSA and working for employers to qualify for SSDI. Otherwise, the applicant may have to opt for Supplemental Security Income benefits, which are for people with limited income, resources, and work history.

Psychological and psychiatric disorders

Some of the cognitive and emotional disorders categorized as mental illness that may qualify an individual for SSDI benefits include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia that is related to bipolar depression
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Organic Mental Disorders

Alcohol and drug dependency and SSDI benefits

The SSA does not recognize chemical dependency alone as a qualifying mental illness for benefits. However, if an applicant is able to prove that the addiction occurred due to self-medicating in order to deal with the symptoms of a cognitive or psychological disorder, the applicant may still qualify for SSDI.

What can you expect?

The disability claims examiners who are employed by Social Security are not licensed psychiatrists. Therefore, these examiners do not always have a full understanding of the limitations that some types of mental illnesses can impose. For example, not every examiner comprehends the cyclical nature of certain mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. An examiner may assume that a patient is cured simply because he or she doesn’t exhibit certain symptoms. Therefore, it is important that applicants have an attorney who specializes in SSDI benefits on their side to help represent their case.

For more information about applying for SSDI benefits for workers suffering from mental illness, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Katherine L. Niven & Associates. Working with us will improve your chances of successfully applying for SSDI benefits.


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