Although far fewer people receive Social Security disability payments for mental illness than for physical impairments, roughly 3.4 million Americans do qualify for benefits based on diagnoses related to psychotic, mood, autistic, substance addiction, and other mental disorders.
In Ohio, just shy of 160,000 of the state’s current disability recipients, or about 39% of all Buckeye State residents who receive disability benefits, qualify for monthly payments based on their mental health ailments.
The Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the government’s disability programs, uses similar criteria when reviewing applications for benefits, whether the applicant is claiming a mental or physical disability.
At the most basic level, SSA considers applicants disabled if they cannot do the work that they did previously; if SSA determines that applicants can’t adjust to other work as a result of their mental condition; and if the mental illness has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year.
Whether applying for mental or physical disability, those seeking benefits will have to be examined by qualified medical professionals who will make a variety of related assessments and will likely conduct a battery of tests.
For mental health, SSA will use four criteria to judge an applicant’s functional limitations. These are activities of daily living; social functioning; concentration, persistence, or pace; and what the government terms “episodes of decomposition.” Such episodes refer to temporary spikes in mental health symptoms, often requiring significant alteration in medications or hospitalization.
Eligibility for mental health disability benefits not only rests on a medical diagnosis that meets the government’s benchmarks; it also depends on whether or not the applicant qualifies based upon an entire set of non-medical requirements. Among the additional factors the government will weigh: how much the applicant, even with a mental disability, is still earning each month; whether the applicant worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security; the applicant’s residency status; and the applicant’s current age.Some applicants who are denied mental health disability benefits meet all of the SSA requirements, but are still rejected because they failed to submit all the necessary forms and supporting documentation, or because they missed specific filing deadlines.
To avoid such possibilities, and to help them navigate the complex rules that govern SSA disability claims, many applicants who apply for mental health-related disability turn to experienced attorneys to guide them throughout the entire process. Should the applicant’s disability claim be denied, an expert lawyer can help clients understand their rights and appeal the SSA decision.
If your application is approved, how large your disability payments will be will depend primarily on your employment history and income. Individuals who paid in higher FICA taxes will be entitled to larger monthly payments.
Nationwide, based on the latest available government data, the average monthly disability benefit is $1,126. Due to historical wage differences between the genders, men still tend to receive larger payments than women.