Is My Mental Illness A Protected Disability?

Social Security Lawyer

Free Evaluation

Understanding the impact of mental illness is crucial in recognizing its validity as a protected disability, particularly in the context of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In 2021, an estimated 22.8% of U.S. adults experienced some form of mental illness, equating to about 57.8 million individuals.

Of these, 5.5%, or approximately 14.1 million people, endured serious mental illness (SMI), significantly impairing their ability to function in major life activities​​. While many with mental health conditions can work and live independently, others might require financial help due to the disabling nature of their condition.

If you’re wondering if you can achieve social security for a mental illness that is affecting your ability to work, then you should consider applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. At The Law Office of Gerard Lynch, we recognize the complexities of disability law. As a team, we are committed to helping individuals with disabilities achieve Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with ease.

Types Of Mental Health Disabilities and SSDI Eligibility

Much like the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) various sections for physically disabling conditions, there are several sections also dedicated to mental illnesses as a disability. Various mental health conditions can qualify an individual for SSDI benefits, as outlined in the SSA’s Blue Book. These disabling conditions include:

  • Neurocognitive disorders

  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders

  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders

  • Intellectual disorders

  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders

  • Somatic symptoms and related disorders

  • Personality disorders

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders

  • Eating disorders, trauma, and stressor-related disorders

Each mental health disorder demands specific medical evidence that proves even in an accommodated work environment and medical interventions to treat a condition, a person is unable to perform substantial gainful activities (SGA).

How To Apply For Social Security Disability For A Mental Illness

There are numerous factors to consider when applying for Social Security disability benefits. It can be daunting to sift through the requirements for your specific condition under the Blue Book guidelines, and even more so if you don’t see your condition listed.

Here are some of the most basic requirements that you should consider when gathering evidence for your claim:

  • Diagnosis of a Mental Disorder: A clinically recognized mental disorder as per the DSM-5 can build strong, foundational evidence for your claim.

  • Severity of the Condition: The condition must significantly limit one’s ability to perform basic work activities.

  • Duration of the Condition: Much like a physical impairment, your mental disorder must be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.

  • Inability to Work: The condition must prevent you from performing any work you’ve done before and adjust to other work.

  • Medical Evidence: Comprehensive medical documentation, including psychiatric evaluations, treatment records, and statements from treating professionals.

It’s still possible to apply when you have only gathered one, or none, of the factors listed above. A disability attorney will be able to help you gather the evidence you need to solidify your chances for approval. Contact the Law Office of Gerard Lynch for claim help now.

Application Process Steps

The application process for SSDI due to mental illness includes:

  • Initial Preparation: Gathering all medical records, employment history, and personal identification documents.

  • Medical Documentation: Collecting detailed records of psychiatric evaluations, therapy notes, hospitalizations, and medication records.

  • Completing the Application: Fill out the SSDI application online with detailed information about your condition and how it affects your life.

  • Consultative Exam: If more information is needed, SSA may request a consultative examination by an independent doctor.

  • Waiting for Decision: After applying, there will be a waiting period during which SSA reviews the claim.

  • Regular Updates: Keeping SSA informed of any changes in your medical condition or treatment.

Applying For Disability Benefits Without An Official Blue Book Listing

Even if a mental illness is not listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, you can still qualify for SSDI. The key is establishing that your condition is “medically equivalent” to a listed impairment. This involves:

  • Detailed medical evidence that shows the severity and limitations of your condition.

  • A physician’s statement about your condition.

  • A functional capacity evaluation, or demonstration of how your condition affects your work and daily activities

It’s not uncommon for SSDI claims, especially those based on mental illness, to be initially denied. In 2023, about 38.6% of people applying for Social Security Disability, including those with mental health issues, got approved at the first stage.

This means that more than 60% of these applications were initially not accepted. Due to this high rate of first-time denials, new claimants can easily see how tedious and difficult the process can be to get their benefits.

That’s why it is crucial to fill out the application forms carefully and think about what you can do if you need to appeal.

Some of the most common reasons for denial include:

  • Insufficient Medical Evidence: Lack of comprehensive and up-to-date medical records.

  • Non-compliance with Treatment: Failure to follow prescribed treatment plans.

  • Lack of Severity: The condition is not deemed severe enough to impair work ability.

Steps to Appeal a Claim Denial

If your SSDI claim is denied, here’s how to appeal:

  • Request for Reconsideration: This is the first step, where your claim is reviewed anew by someone not involved in the original decision.

  • Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge: If reconsideration fails, you can request a hearing, where you can present additional evidence and testimony.

  • Review by the Appeals Council: If you disagree with the hearing outcome, you can ask for a review by the SSA’s Appeals Council.

  • Federal Court Review: The final step involves filing a lawsuit in a federal district court.

Before you begin to tackle this appeal process or the initial application process, you should hire a disability lawyer who can help with your case. A disability attorney from a firm like the Law Office of Gerard Lynch can provide invaluable assistance at each step. Our office specifically ensures that your case is presented effectively and all relevant evidence is considered.

Close-up of a disabled woman holding the hand of a man

Achieve SSDI With The Law Office Of Gerard Lynch

Facing SSDI claims for a mental illness can be daunting. At The Law Office of Gerard Lynch, we offer a free case consultation to guide you through this challenging process. Our unique approach, backed by successful case histories and an in-depth understanding of SSDI laws, sets us apart from other Houston-based disability law firms.

We stand committed to ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the support you deserve. For questions or to schedule your free case consultation, contact us at (713) 225-1817 to start your journey towards securing the benefits you need.

Client Testimonials


This case was my first time hiring a lawyer but I am glad that the attorney I chose worked diligently with me to help me get the results I was looking for. I am confident in letting the law offices of Gerard Lynch handle my business when needed, and I will be contacting this office when or is there is another matter that I need handled. I, Alexander Foster, am very satisfied with the outcome of my case. The Law Office of Gerard Lynch and I worked together and we achieved the goal that we were striving for. I am so thankful.

Alexander Foster,

The best and foremost compliment I can give this firm is the fact that I didn't have to come in to the office and overall my case was handled very expeditiously. Thanks for a job well done on my behalf.

Kathy Brown,

We need more lawyers like Mr. Lynch with an understanding heart and mind. May God bless you and your staff. I enjoyed working with Mr. Lynch and thank you so very much.

M. Robertson,

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be disabled permanently to receive Social Security Disability (SSD)?

No you do not. A claimant needs to be disabled for at least 12 months or have a medical condition that is terminal or expected to lead to death. Sometimes a claimant is not disabled permanently but has a certain time frame in which they are disabled from working. For example, a claimant may get into a car accident, need to have multiple surgeries and is out of work for at least one year. That claimant can receive benefits for the period before he or she returned back to work.

It is possible but rare. In a SSD case, medical records are your evidence and that is the proof you have to show the SSA and an social security judge that you do have a severe medical condition that keeps you from working. If you do not have recent medical records, it is much harder to win a case. There is a possibility, though not common, that your case might be approved simply by going to a consultative exam that SSA sends you to, where a doctor gives you a physical or mental examination.

One benefit of working with our office is that we will look carefully at your case and if you do not have enough or current medical records, we can often give you information about low-income or indigent health services where you can go and get medical treatment for free or greatly reduced cost.

Our law firm, the Law Office of Gerard Lynch, only charges our clients if we win their SSD or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. We charge on a contingency basis, 25% of the backpay, a cap of up to $6000, awarded to a claimant when we win the case. The fees are regulated by the Social Security Administration (SSA). If we do not win their case, we do not charge anything no matter how much work we have done. Once a client wins and their monthly checks begin, they will keep 100% of their checks.

Social Security Disability (SSD) comes from FICA taxes that are deducted from paychecks during the work history of a person. Every month that a person works and reports income to the government, taxes are deducted which are paid into social security. When FICA taxes are taken out of paychecks, most of it goes into the social security retirement fund. However, a smaller portion goes into the social security disability fund. People who become disabled over their lifetime and are not yet eligible to get their full age retirement benefits can get benefits from the disability fund. One difference between Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is that Social Security Disability (SSD) is like social security retirement – it does not matter how much money a person has or how many assets they have.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a different program for disabled people and it is like a form of welfare. Like food stamps, if you have too much money, assets or property, then you will be ineligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) even if you are clearly disabled. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people who are either too young to have paid enough into the system or have not worked recently enough to receive Social Security Disability (SSD). The benefits given to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claimants come from the general US government fund. To receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a claimant has to be equally disabled to a person who receives Social Security Disability (SSD) – the standard for determining disability are the same. The only difference in deciding which claimant receives Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) comes from the amount of money paid into the social security system over one’s lifetime.