Many people find that they or a loved one cannot work and earn a living because they are dealing with a mental illness. While not all mental illnesses are disabling to the point where someone can’t work, others may find that it’s not possible to function in a traditional job.

Below, you will learn more about getting help from New York State in these cases, including what mental illnesses qualify as disabilities, how to apply, and what you can expect during the process. Let’s begin with the mental illnesses that qualify as a disability.

Do Mental Illnesses Qualify as a Disability?

One of the most common questions people have regarding mental illnesses is whether they qualify as a disability. In many cases, these illnesses will qualify, which means you could be receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration.

However, it is important to note that not all mental illnesses will qualify. There are only certain mental illnesses, listed in the state’s Blue Book, that will qualify. Even then, depending on the severity, it can affect how much you can get in benefits, or if you will be able to get any benefits at all.

Let’s get a closer look at the qualifying mental disorders.

What Mental Disorders Quality as a Disability in New York?

Below are the mental disorders that could qualify you or a loved one for SSI or SSDI in New York State.

Neurocognitive Disorders – 12.02

These disorders are often characterized by a decline in cognitive function, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disorder.

Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders 12.03

These include disorders that result in delusions, speech issues, hallucinations, erratic behavior, and other symptoms that cause a significant decline in functioning.

Intellectual Disorder 12.05     

A mental disorder that causes one to have intellectual functioning that is considered significantly subaverage.

Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders 12.06

These disorders include generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other conditions that result in excessive anxiety, worry, fear, and avoidance.

Depressive, Bipolar and Related Disorders 12.04

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or Bipolar Disorder are characterized by irritability, depression, fluctuations between elevated or depressed mood, loss of interest in all activities, and more.

Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders 12.07

With these types of disorders, the cause of physical symptoms can’t be identified. Doctors often conclude that the preoccupation with an undiagnosed condition is the cause. One example is an anxiety disorder.  

Personality and Impulse-Control Disorders 12.08

Characterized by pervasive, inflexible, and maladaptive (intense daydreaming that distracts from regular functioning) behavior patterns. Paranoia is an example of this type of disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder 12.10

This is a mental illness that involves deficiencies in social behavior and communication (both verbal and non-verbal).

Neurodevelopmental Disorders 12.11

These occur when there is a deficiency in the developmental period, often childhood and adolescence. Examples could be specific learning disorders or Tourette syndrome.    

Eating Disorders 12.13

Disturbances in eating habits, preoccupation with shape and weight, excessive self-evaluation.

Trauma-Related Disorders 12.15

This includes post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and others that are induced by experiencing or witnessing trauma, or by learning about traumatic events happening to a close friend or family member.

The above are the types of mental health disorders that can qualify as a disability in NY for those who are seeking SSI and/or SSDI. However, just because someone has one of these disorders may not always mean that they will qualify.

Who Decides If One’s Disorder Is a Disability?

You can’t simply apply for SSI or SSDI can claim to have one of these mental illness disabilities. Before the Social Security Administration can consider your mental illness a disability, you will need to meet specific mental requirements in the SSA’s Blue Book. This book includes a list of the conditions discussed above.

Your mental illness will need to match one of those listings to qualify for disability. However, even if you have a mental illness that meets one of the medical listings in the Blue Book, you will still need to show that your mental illness is severe enough that you are unable to work full-time for at least a year.

Many people who have mental illnesses like those listed above are still able to work. SSA wants to make sure that those who truly need the help can get it.

What Will the SSA Need to Decide If One’s Disorder Is a Disability?

The SSA will review your medical condition before they make a decision. Even if you already have SSI or SSDI because of your disability, you may still have to undergo a periodic review to ensure that you are still considered disabled and not capable of working. Here’s what the SSA will look at when Reviewing.

General Evidence

The SSA will want to know how your mental illness affects your ability to function in different situations. They will want to review both medical and non-medical sources to obtain their evidence. When they are gathering general evidence, they will talk with those who interact with you regularly. This will often include family, friends, social workers, employers, teachers, neighbors, etc.

Medical Evidence

Naturally, the SSA wants to make sure there is medical evidence that will backup your condition. To gather this type of information and evidence, they will want to speak to medical professionals in your life.

Depending on your situation it may include one or more of the following people: your doctor, psychologist, physician’s assistant, clinical mental health counselors, and clinical social workers.

These medical professionals will be asked a range of questions. They will want to know more about the symptoms you have, your medical history, and your psychological or psychiatric history. They will also want to know whether you are going through any therapy, and the medications, including dosages, that you are taking.

Evidence from People You Know

As mentioned, the SSA will also want to learn more about you from the people who know you. This could include your family members, neighbors, friends, social workers, staff at a shelter, community support workers, etc. They want to talk with these people to get a better picture of you and how you interact with others.

Evidence from Work or School

If you are working or attending school, the SSA might ask the school or employer about you. For example, the SSA could want to talk with school staff about how your mental illness may have affected your ability to learn. They will want to know if you received special education services, and how you function in the classroom.

Longitudinal Evidence

Longitudinal evidence simply means they are going to look for information about any variations regarding how your condition has affected you over time. How have things changed? Has your ability to function gotten better or worse? Has it fluctuated over time, or has it remained static?

Some of the people who will be contacted when the SSA is looking for longitudinal evidence include family members, social workers, medical care providers, former employers, and other government agencies.

Functioning in Unfamiliar and Supportive Situations

The SSA wants to know how you function in unfamiliar settings that you are not accustomed to. They want to have a better idea of how you react in these situations, and it can be enlightening as to whether you would be able to handle getting and holding a job.

Those who do poorly in these types of situations rather than supportive situations, may not be capable of functioning properly and holding down a job over the long term. It could play a role in the decision the SSA makes.

If you feel that you or your loved one could qualify for SSI or SSDI, you will have to go through the application process.

How to Go Through the Disability Application Process

First, you have to make sure if you meet the requirements to apply online for disability. If you do, you can then gather the information you need to complete the application and then go to SSA Online Services.

On the site, you will then enter the information for your claim. You can apply online with the Federal Social Security Administration.

Then, a professional disability analyst from the New York State Division of Disability Determinations will conduct the review. They will determine whether you will qualify for disability.

When you are getting ready to apply, you need to be sure you have all of your information and documentation ready to go. This includes:

·         Birth and citizenship information

·         Marriage and divorce information

·         Names and birthdates of children

·         US Military service information

·         Employment details (current year and past two years)

·         Bank information for direct deposit

·         Name and contact details for someone who can help you with the claim.

·         Contact information for medical professionals, clinics, hospitals, etc.

·         Date the condition started to affect your ability to work

·         Information on other jobs you’ve had

·         Education and training

Even though not all of these will apply to you, make sure you have as much information available as possible, so it will be easy to access in case you need it. Once you submit everything, your case will be reviewed. If you qualify, you can then start to receive benefits.

What Disability Benefits Can You Obtain in New York?

Those who have a mental illness disability could be able to earn Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

SSI provides those who qualify with minimum basic financial assistance. Many older adults, along with those who have disabilities, such as certain mental illnesses, could qualify for this.

Those who have limited incomes could apply for this. The amount that you receive can vary based on your situation. Typically, the benefit payments in New York for SSI are about $800 a month.

SSDI is to support those who are disabled and who have a qualifying work history through their employment or the employment of a family member, such as a spouse or a parent. Those who have a disability and work credits could apply for this.

In some cases, it may be possible to apply for and receive both SSI and SSDI. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone will qualify. The SSA wants to make sure that they are only providing the benefits to those who need them.

How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for Mental Disability in NY?

The length of time can vary, but in most cases, it will take between three and five months. Therefore, it’s better to get started with the process as early as possible. The sooner you start the application the better. Below are some websites and resources to help you get started.

Get Started with the Application

If you are going to apply for SSDI, you will be able to apply online, over the phone, or in person.

·         Apply Online for Disability in NY:

·         Apply by Phone: 1-800-772-1213. You can call from 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday.

·         Apply In-Person: You can head to your local Social Security office to apply in person if you prefer.

If you are applying for SSI, you will need to visit a local Social Security offer to apply, as there is not an application.

·         Find a local office:

·         Call 1-800-772-1213 (TYY 1-800-325-0778) to make an appointment before you visit.

Living with a mental illness can be difficult, and it can make it impossible to keep a job and earn enough money to make ends meet. No one should have to worry about having the supplemental income they need to survive because of a condition they can’t help.

Take the time to explore your options and to see whether you might be able to qualify for SSI or SSDI. These funds are there for people like you who need some help. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will find out whether you can receive this income or not.

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