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Social Security Administration benefits for mental illness

There are many challenges to living with a mental illness. Depending on the severity of your illness, you might find it difficult to take care of certain daily tasks or hold down a job. This can be disheartening, but you have options for addressing some of your more pressing financial needs. For example, you may qualify for Social Security Administration benefits.

In particular, you might be interested in learning more about how to get Social Security Disability Insurance — SSDI — or Supplemental Security Income — SSI. These are the types of benefits that people with physical disabilities generally qualify for, but you could also qualify due to your mental illness. However, you have to be prepared to demonstrate how your mental illness prevents you from working.

Do I qualify for SSA benefits?

SSA provides benefits for people who have mental impairments that are inherently disabling. An inherently disabling mental illness makes it so that it is impossible to perform substantial gainful activity. The SSA maintains a list of mental illnesses that might cause such disabling effects, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Autistic disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia

It is also possible to obtain benefits for temporary mental conditions or those that are not on the SSA’s official list. Like with more permanent mental impairments, you will still need to demonstrate that you are not able to work or perform other types of gainful activity. You will need to show that the impairment will probably last for 12 months or longer.

Getting assessed

Assessing mental illnesses is much different than assessing physical disabilities, and the process also tends to be a lot more subjective. Because of the nature of mental illnesses, you might struggle to accurately describe your own symptoms or keep up with your treatments. Many mental illnesses are cyclical in nature too, so you may present no symptoms for a brief period of time.

Examiners in charge of assessments may not have as much medical information to rely on when assessing mental illnesses either. They often use information pulled from activities of daily living questionnaires, physicians’ records, and feedback from relatives and friends. If your examiner feels there is insufficient information, he or she may send you to an independent physician for a mental consultative exam.

What is your residual functional capacity?

Your residual functional capacity — RFC — is a measurement of what kind of work you can perform with your mental illness. The four levels of RFC are based off specific areas of mental and psychological functioning. They are:

  • Insufficient evidence
  • Not significantly limited
  • Moderately limited
  • Markedly limited

You will possibly be able to secure Social Security Administration benefits if you are markedly limited in at least one area, such as social interactions or adaptations. Taking this step can be exceptionally difficult for Ohio residents with mental illnesses, and it may be completely out of your comfort zone. Some people find that learning as much as possible about SSA benefits can demystify the process and make it somewhat easier.