If you are seeking Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for depression or other mental health disabilities, the good news is that you can qualify for benefits if you meet the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s guidelines.
However, meeting the guidelines for a mental health disability can be an uphill battle filled with paperwork, doctors’ visits, phone calls, and possible denials and appeals.
Symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions can make this potentially lengthy process even more difficult to go through alone.
Having a support network and mental health professionals you can turn to are important resources, but these individuals may not have the experienced legal insights to help you win your SSI benefits claim.
That’s why a qualified SSI attorney can make a positive difference in your case.
Disability attorneys at Affleck & Gordon have decades of experience helping those with mental disorders such as depression qualify for SSI.
While the journey to gaining your benefits can be long and arduous, qualifying for SSI can alleviate the stress of covering expenses you might not otherwise have the means to pay.
Consulting with an attorney early in the process gives you an advocate who will guide you through the process toward your best chance for a positive outcome in your case.
Let’s talk in more detail about the relationship between mental health disorders and SSI benefits—and whether or not you qualify.
What Is SSI?
SSI is a needs-based benefits program for those who are 65 or older or are blind or disabled at any age, and have limited income and resources.
You would apply for SSI when you haven’t paid Social Security taxes through your employer to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Those who qualify for SSI typically also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as Medicaid.
You can apply for SSI benefits online or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday 7am to 7pm, according to the SSA website.
What Mental Health Conditions Qualify for SSI?
One way to qualify for SSI is to meet one of these rigid categories:
- Depression—five or more of these symptoms: “depressed mood; diminished interest in almost all activities; appetite disturbance with change in weight; sleep disturbance; observable psychomotor agitation or retardation; decreased energy; deelings of guilt or worthlessness; difficulty concentrating or thinking; or thoughts of death or suicide.”
- Neurocognitive disorders—significant mental decline in areas such as “complex attention; executive function; learning and memory; language; perceptual-motor; or social cognition”
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders—one or more of these symptoms: “delusions or hallucinations; disorganized thinking (speech); or grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia”
- Bipolar and related disorders—three or more of these symptoms: “pressured speech; flight of ideas; inflated self-esteem; decreased need for sleep; distractibility; involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation”
- Anxiety—three or more of these symptoms: “restlessness; easily fatigued; difficulty concentrating; irritability; muscle tension; or sleep disturbance”
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder—one or both of these: “involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts; or repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety”
- Panic disorder or agoraphobia—one or both of these: “panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences; or disproportionate fear or anxiety about at least two different situations”
- Autism spectrum disorder—both of these: “qualitative deficits in verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and social interaction; and significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities”
Some other categories of mental health disorders that qualify for SSI include:
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
- Eating disorders
- Trauma and stressor-related disorders
- Intellectual disorders
- Somatic symptoms and related disorders
- Personality and impulse-control disorders
Each of these must also be proven with medical documentation and show either extreme limitation in one, or marked limitation of two, of the following categories:
- Understand, remember, or apply information.
- Interact with others.
- Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
- Adapt or manage oneself.
However, it may be difficult to qualify under one of these strict categories.
You may be more likely to qualify when your mental health condition is determined to be disabling due to evidence from:
- Medical examination records
- Proven connection between your condition and ability to function
The SSA will use medical examination records, doctors’ opinions, and other factors specific to your case to determine if your condition disables you such that it prevents you from working.
To prepare and give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome, consult a disability attorney early in your case.
Typically, for Social Security, you don’t pay an attorney’s fee up front. Instead you’ll sign a fee agreement so that your attorney receives a portion of your “back pay” if you win your case, and this comes directly from the SSA. This fee is limited to 25% or no more than $6,000.
Denied? An SSI Attorney Can Help You Appeal.
There’s a high chance that when you apply for disability benefits, the SSA may deny your initial claim. You then need to begin an appeals process within a short period after the initial denial.
Appeals can go through multiple stages, including reconsideration by the SSA, a hearing with an administrative law judge, consideration by the Appeals Council, and even possibly a hearing in federal court.
The right SSI attorney can advocate for you throughout your case and guide you through any necessary appeals. Qualified attorneys will be current on disability law, SSA regulations, and the expectations of those determining your case at each level.
If your Supplemental Security Income claim for depression has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-4978.