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Understanding mental health and Social Security disability

When you already struggle with mental health issues impacting your daily quality of life and capacity to function, it can be exhausting to think of dealing with the red tape and hassles involved with obtaining Social Security disability. Mental health issues can often be far more difficult to prove against requirements for disability, yet when disability benefits are essential to your capacity to survive it can help to know exactly how the federal government measures criteria for mental health related Social Security benefits. We at Adler Stilman, PLLC, understand the frustration inherent in pursuing the benefits you deserve.

The SSA categorizes mental health disabilities in adults into eleven subsets, which include but are not limited to: schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders, intellectual disorders, somatic disorders, depressive and bipolar disorders, neurocognitive disorders, autism spectrum disorder and more. Each of these categories has its own criteria for determination of disability qualification. Some are evaluated only for medical criteria presented as evidence of the disorder, while others require further determination against assessments of how much the disorder limits your ability to function. Still another assessment determines whether or not the disorder is considered chronic, also described as "serious and persistent." 

For example, those with neurocognitive disorders must prove either medical documentation of cognitive decline plus critical limitation of key mental functions, or prove medical documentation plus chronic, serious, and persistent disordered states. However, intellectual disorders need only prove one of two criteria. The first criteria involves proving significant deficiency in intellectual function below the average determined either by testing, personal independence and history of intellectual dysfunction prior to the age of 22. The other criteria involves proving deficiency determined by IQ testing, severe limitation of certain behavioral and social functions and evidence of conditions existing before the age of 22.

Understanding the intersection of mental health disability and Social Security benefits can be confusing, and you deserve the resources needed to clearly understand how Social Security disability law applies to you. For further educational resources, please visit our blog and website.

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