What is the difference between physical and mental disability?

Answering this question seems fairly simple. Physical disabilities affect the body, while metal disabilities affect the brain. That oversimplifies the reality of the situation to near meaninglessness, though. Obviously, problems that originate in the brain can make controlling muscles difficult; likewise, bodily injuries can trigger mental disorders. Think, for instance, how a chemical imbalance in the brain can set off both hallucinations and uncontrollable tremors. Then recognize that losing a limb can cause long-lasting emotional distress.

Instead of immediately drawing a sharp distinction between physical and mental disabilities, it pays to consult the legal definition of “disability.” To quote from the most broadly applicable section of the federal Americans With Disability Act (ADA), a disability “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The statute than lists examples of major life activities as:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Working

The Cleveland disability attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman start with the ADA definition when consulting with clients seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Ohio Workers’ Compensation, retirement, or insurance benefits. We focus in particular on collecting evidence that a physical or mental condition impairs a person’s ability to work. Medical records, employment histories, statements from family members and others who know the client well, and evaluations by social workers, job coaches, and physical therapists can all help support a disability claim.

Why a Difference Matters Between Physical Disability and Mental Disability

Proving a client suffers from a disability is essential, but it is not always enough. The programs that pay disability benefits all use different rules for classifying and compensating conditions. For instance, to individuals who suffer from a wide array of serious mental disabilities, ranging from autism and schizophrenia to severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ohio Workers’ Compensation, though, automatically denies almost every claim related to mental problems, even if strong evidence exists that a condition like PTSD is employment-related. Retirement plans also reject mental disability claims at high rates.

This reality does not mean that mental disability workers’ comp claims cannot succeed. Rather, knowing that pursuing such a claim presents special challenges will allow an Ohio disability lawyer to put together the strongest case possible while also preparing beforehand to mount an appeal. Determining the exact nature of the disability also enables a disabled client’s legal advisor to point the person toward the most helpful sources of health care, financial assistance, and emotional support outside of workers’ comp, Social Security and the like.

Whether you suffer a physical impairment, a mental disability, or a combination of both, we may be able to prepare a successful application for government benefits, insurance payments, or retirement benefits. Simply completing all the necessary paperwork can be daunting, so do not hesitate to reach out for guidance at the very beginning of the disability claims process.

Still does not understand the difference between physical and mental disability? You can schedule a free consultation by calling (800) 678-3318 or sharing your story with us online.