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How do I know if my mental impairment qualifies for SSD benefits?

Published on March 1st, 2013

We see this question come up time and time again from clients wondering if they are eligible for valuable disability benefits from the federal government. Because the Social Security system is so complex, the process can often times be frustrating-even for the most seasoned of people.

To see how Social Security determines whether a mental condition qualifies for benefits, we will use the example of a fictitious couple named Jack and Jill. Hopefully, they can clear up some confusion and help people who have similar situations.

Let’s start with Jack. All of his life he’s suffered from depression. For the most part it’s never interfered much with his life, but recent stresses have caused his performance at work to suffer and nothing seems to be helping the situation. Unable to cope, he has been forced to take a leave of absence from work and fears that his mental condition may be preventing him from working.

Because Jack’s condition is on the SSA’s official list of mental impairments, he may qualify for benefits as long as he can prove that his disability is preventing him from working. Because mental impairments are more difficult to prove than physical disabilities, it is important for patients to get the appropriate documentation from a physician before applying for benefits. Keeping all medical evaluations up to date also greatly increases your chances of having an SSD claim approved.

Let’s say that his wife Jill also has a mental condition but one that is not listed on the official list. Let’s also say that her symptoms are cyclical in nature too. In her case, she will need to make sure that she has appropriate medical documentation that shows when the symptoms appear and the duration of time they are present. She may also want to get statements from family and friends that can attest to her condition and include these with her application for disability benefits.

It’s important to remember that even if you follow the process exactly, there is no guarantee that your application will be approved. In these circumstances, you have the right to appeal but are highly encouraged to get help from an attorney during this step.

Source:, “Mental Health Disability Claims

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