While those living with debilitating mental illness may apply for SSD, the process tends to be more difficult and presents a few variations:
Proving the Condition
As for all conditions, the SSD application requires the claimant to prove the illness is so severe it prevents him or her from working a full-time job or meeting the substantial gainful activity level ($1,090 per month, as of 2015) for at least a year.
In the process, you need to show your condition meets the criteria for the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments. For mental health, this includes:
- “Organic” disorders, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia
- Personality disorders
- Affective disorders, such as depression
- Substance abuse disorders
- Anxiety-related conditions
- Somatoform disorders, such as Hypochondriasis and body dysmorphic disorder.
- Intellectual disabilities
Your application must indicate, through support from a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, that you display related symptoms, and that it impairs you from working.
As well, your application should further address your daily life. The SSA is said to see if your illness gets in the way of paying your bills on time, grocery shopping, social functions, concentration, and pace, and if your condition has gotten worse over the years.
Mental Residual Functional Computing Assessment
What happens when your condition isn’t listed? While the SSA won’t toss out your application, you will need to have a Mental Residual Functional Computing (MRFC) assessment completed. Your doctor fills out this paperwork to indicate what you can and cannot do regarding the mental and emotional aspects of full-time work.
The doctor will assess:
- Your ability to follow simple directions.
- Your memory
- Your ability to function in a normal work environment.
- Your ability to get along in a workplace and with the public.
- How you tolerate stress
- If you have behaviors that may distract others.
Applying and Denial
Those looking to apply for SSD may be steered toward Supplemental Security Income (SSI). What’s the difference? SSI is designed for those with minimal work history, while SSD helps those who’ve had a lengthier time in the workforce and have paid taxes into Social Security.
As well, the SSA has been known to deny applications for the following reasons:
- Your condition is cyclical, making it seem as if you improved or were cured.
- You use alcohol or drugs, and being sober makes you less impaired.