There are many medical conditions that can make it too difficult for someone to work. Most people assume that only physical health conditions like cancer or arthritis qualify someone to receive Social Security disability benefits but that’s not the case. While not all mental health conditions are disabling, Social Security disability benefits are available to those with debilitating mental health conditions. There are more than 200 physical and mental health conditions that qualify someone for disability benefits. If you have worked in the past and paid taxes, and you expect that you won’t be able to work for at least a year because of your condition then you can file a claim for disability benefits.

Medically Qualifying For Disability Benefits

When you file a claim for Social Security disability benefits you will need to provide detailed medical information about your condition in order to be eligible for approval. Every condition that is considered eligible for disability benefits is listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. You can search through the Blue Book online on the SSA’s website. When you look at each individual listing you will see that every listing contains very specific requirements. Your medical records will need to show that you meet those requirements before your claim can be approved.

For example, if you are filing a claim because you have PTSD, you’d need to show documentation that you meet all five of these criteria:

  • exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence
  • subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks)
  • avoidance of external reminders of the event
  • disturbance in mood and behavior, and
  • increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance).

You would also need to have a diagnosis of PTSD from a psychologist. And you need to show that you have an extreme limitation in one or more of these areas or a severe limitation in two or more of these areas:

  • understanding, remembering, or using information (learning new things, applying new knowledge to tasks, following instructions)
  • interacting with others in socially appropriate ways
  • being able to concentrate on tasks in order to complete them at a reasonable pace
  • adapting or managing oneself (regulating one’s emotions, adapting to changes, having practical personal skills like paying bills, shopping, hygiene).

Documentation can be medical records like MRIs or X-rays and it can also be notes from your counselor or psychologist, statements from your teachers, old co-workers, or former employers, or statements from family members, friends, social workers, or anyone else that can comment on the way that PTSD limits your ability to function.

Medical Vocational Allowance

If you don’t meet the exact requirements listed in the Blue Book you’re not alone. It’s a very common occurrence. When that happens you can still qualify for disability benefits through a Medical Vocational Allowance. To qualify through this exception your doctor or psychologist needs to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. In this evaluation your doctor can describe your symptoms in detail and document how those symptoms make it impossible for you to work.

The SSA will look at your claim, your medical evidence, and the RFC submitted by your doctor. They will also look at your work history, your age, your education, and your skill set. If they determine that there is no work that you can do without extensive retraining, then you will be eligible for disability benefits.

Filing A Claim

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the SSA has suspended all in person consultations. To apply for Social Security disability benefits, you can do so directly on the SSA’s website. After your initial application stage is complete, you can expect a decision from the SSA within 3 to 5 months. If your claim is denied, you have the option of appealing the SSA’s decision.  If you have any further questions, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213.

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