How Social Security Evaluates Mental Illness Claims


Posted by: Chris

To qualify for mental illness benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must believe that your mental illness is disabling. The SSA defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from working. The physical or mental impairment cannot be temporary and must last for at least one year before it is considered disabling.

Mental illness claims can be difficult to win; almost half are denied at the first application stage but almost 75% of mental illness claims that are appealed are eventually approved. To be successful with a mental illness claim, your illness must meet the criteria of what the SSA considers to be a mental illness in its Listing of Impairments under “Mental Disorders.” These include the following 11 categories:

  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  • Depressive, bipolar and related disorders
  • Intellectual disorder
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma and stressor-related disorders

If your condition does not fit into one of these categories, the SSA will need to examine your medical records and diagnosis by a psychologist or psychiatrist to determine what is known as your “mental residual functional capacity,” or MRFC. Your MRFC determines how limited you are in terms of the work you can perform with the mental illness you have. If the SSA decides that your MRFC does not allow you to work on a regular full-time basis, you will likely be approved to receive benefits.

To make its determination, the SSA will rely on your medical records as well as an MRFC report on your mental condition furnished by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. The SSA will examine any limitations you may have when it comes to your ability to:

  • Follow directions
  • Understand and remember information
  • Control your behavior
  • Adapt to changes
  • Tolerate stress
  • Complete tasks in an appropriate length of time
  • Manage daily living activities

Obtaining Social Security disability benefits is not easy. If you have a mental illness, get the help you need from the attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. We have helped countless clients navigate the complex process of getting approved for Social Security disability benefits. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.