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Mental illness and SSDI: Do you qualify?

All too often, people with mental disorders do not think that they will qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This could not be further from the truth. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), of the approximately 9 million individuals who receive SSDI benefits, more than a third qualify based on a mental health condition.

This doesn't mean that every application is successful or that the process for obtaining SSDI for a mental condition isn't complex. The SSA has its own strict diagnostic criteria for determining who has a mental illness. Pair this with minimum past work requirements, and the process can be a difficult road.

The SSA organizes mental health disorders into the following diagnostic categories:

  • Organic mental disorders
  • Schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders 
  • Affective disorders
  • Intellectual disability
  • Anxiety-related disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance addiction disorders
  • Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders

Each category has its own diagnostic structure, adding more complexity to the mental health assessment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

"Qualification for SSDI on mental health grounds can be difficult. Your claims are not reviewed by mental health professionals, and the reviewers may know little or nothing about mental health conditions. It is therefore important to include as much evidence as possible in your claim."

NAMI also suggests carefully reviewing the criteria for your particular diagnostic category, and reviewing all 9 categories if your condition is not listed. In certain situations, you may qualify for SSDI under a different category than you expect.

As with other legal matters, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney about your options.

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