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Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits with a Mental Health Issue?

The CDC reports that roughly 20% of all Americans live with some type of disability, totaling up to approximately 57 million people.  While some of these individuals are able to control their health issues with medication, others have an impairment which is so severe that it prohibits them from maintaining steady employment.  If you are living with a mental illness which interferes with your ability to work and earn income, you may be able to qualify for monthly SSI or SSDI benefits through the SSA (Social Security Administration).

The SSA reports that in 2014, nearly nine million Americans will qualify to receive more than $10 billion in disability benefits, with average monthly payments exceeding $1,000.  But while these benefits are an incredible financial resource, qualifying to receive them can be exceedingly difficult. While figures vary by source, the average approval rate for claims in Arkansas has been reported as “high” as 42% — and as low as 28%.  During later stages of the application process, like Reconsideration following an initial denial, those rates drop even lower.

As the statistics make clear, you’re up against a challenge.  You can increase your chances of being successfully approved by working with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.  To schedule a private legal consultation, call Arkansas disability lawyer Ken Kieklak at (479) 439-1843 today.

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Ken Kieklak: Arkansas Disability Attorney

For many applicants, the path toward being approved for benefits is full of obstacles.  Claimants must contend with poor approval rates, extremely rigorous technical and medical criteria, and a long list of potential reasons for initial disqualification.  Even if you feel that your condition is severe and prohibits you from working, the SSA’s disability examiners may still come to a different conclusion.

When you’re facing such overwhelming odds, you need to make your claim as strong as you possibly can.  For nearly 20 years, Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law has been advocating for fair compensation for the disabled men and women of Arkansas.  Now, let us bring our decades of experience to your case.  No matter how complex or overwhelming your situation might feel, we’re here to help.

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How Do I Qualify for Disability with a Mental Illness?

SSA claims examiners use different sets of guidelines and criteria to help determine whether or not a given application should be rejected or approved.   Questions the SSA will consider include:

  • What sort of income do you earn?  As of 2014, you cannot be earning more than $1,070 per month.
  • How long has your condition lasted?  Your condition must have lasted (or be expected to last) for no fewer than 12 months, or be expected to end in death.
  • How severe is your health problem?  If you can control and manage your symptoms with ease, you will not be eligible.
  • What sort of issue do you have?  To determine severity, the SSA uses the illness-specific criteria in its “Blue Book,” or Listing of Impairments.  If your condition is not in the Listing, or if the effects of your illness do not match those contained in the Listing, you may still be able to qualify via something called a medical-vocational allowance.

If you are not disqualified by these questions, your specific mental illness will then be evaluated against Blue Book standards.  For this reason, it is critically important that you bolster your claim with as much thorough medical evidence as you can possibly gather.  Your attorney and physician will help you.

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Which Conditions Are Covered?

Mental disorders — not to be confused with neurological disorders, which are covered in a different section of the Listing — are discussed within Section 12.00 of the Blue Book.  Under Section 12.00, mental health issues which can qualify you for approval include:

  • Organic mental disorders (12.02).  “Psychological or behavioral abnormalities associated with a dysfunction of the brain.”
  • Schizophrenic, paranoid, and other psychotic disorders (12.03).  “Characterized by the onset of psychotic features with deterioration from a previous level of functioning.”
  • Affective disorders (12.04).  “Characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome.”
  • Intellectual disability (12.05).  Described as “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning.”
  • Anxiety-related disorders (12.06).  “In these disorders, anxiety is either the predominant disturbance or it is experienced if the individual attempts to master symptoms.”
  • Somatoform disorders (12.07).  Refers to “physical symptoms for which there are no demonstrable organic findings or known physiological mechanisms.”
  • Personality disorders (12.08).  These “exist when personality traits are inflexible and maladaptive, and cause either significant impairment in social or occupational functioning or subjective distress.”
  • Substance addiction disorders (12.09).  “Behavioral changes or physical changes associated with the regular use of substances that affect the central nervous system.”
  • Autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders (12.10).  “Characterized by qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, in the development of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and in imaginative activity.

In summation, some of the more common health issues covered by these subsections include:

  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Schizophrenia

You can read more about how the SSA evaluates these conditions here.  Keep in mind that simply having a disability is not enough — you must meet or equal the criteria in the Listing.

If you or someone you love has a mental illness, monthly benefits may be available.  To schedule a confidential case evaluation, call Ken Kieklak at (479) 439-1843, or contact us online today.

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3900 N Front St #103
Fayetteville, AR 72703

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Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law
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