Disability Benefits for a Mental Illness or Brain Injury

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HandOnWheelchairThe following is a blog submission written by Ram Meyyappan who works to help people apply for disability assistance.  He has written for us in the past on our blog, NeuroNotes at traumaticbraininjury.net, and we invited him to share his knowledge about what can be an overwhelming process for individuals and family members dealing with disability due to mental illness or brain injury.  We hope the following information about how to apply for disability will be helpful for you.

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are available for a range of mental illnesses and forms of brain injuries. Additionally, as brain injuries can often result in what are considered “organic mental illnesses”, applying for benefits for one or the other can potentially mean you are submitting an application for benefits for both conditions.

SSD benefits come in two forms:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

AND

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Both programs require you suffer from a severe disability that prevents gainful employment. Both also have financial or technical eligibility criteria you must meet:

  • For SSDI, you must have earnings of less than $1,070 per month and you must have sufficient work credits accumulated over the course of your employment history.
  • For SSI, you must have financial resources from all “countable sources” that do not exceed $720 per month. The SSA’s calculation process is a bit complicated, with only certain kinds of income and assets counted and only a percentage of those financial resources considered.

With a brain injury or mental illness, you may potentially qualify for SSDI and/or SSI.

You can learn more about the disability programs here.

Proving Your Disability with a Mental Illness

Thorough medical records are the key to winning a disability claim, and you will need to review the listing in the Blue Book for your specific condition. The Blue Book is a manual of disabling conditions the SSA uses in evaluating disability claims. The most common listings the SSA utilizes when evaluating disability applications for mental illnesses are as follows:

  • Sections 12.03 through 12.08 – specific forms of mental illnesses, including paranoid, affective, and personality disorders

You can learn more about qualifying for disability benefits with a mental illness here.

Qualifying for Disability with a Brain Injury

Medical records are again the key to qualifying for benefits and the Blue Book contains several listings that may be consulted by SSA disability determination staff when deciding if your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working:

  • Section 11.02 – brain injuries that cause convulsive epilepsy
  • Section 11.03 – brain injuries that result in non-convulsive epilepsy
  • Section 11.04 – brain injuries that cause stroke-like symptoms
  • Section 12.02 – mental disorders resulting from brain injury or cerebral malformations

Applying for Benefits for Yourself

When filing your application for benefits, you will need a lot of information, including:

  • Details of your education, training, and on the job experience
  • Employment history, including dates, job titles, and job duties
  • Earnings information and details of any other forms of benefits or assistance you receive
  • Job performance information, which can help support your claim that your illness prevents you from performing typical job duties
  • Medical records, documenting the diagnosis, features, symptoms, treatment, and outlook for your condition

Collect as many of these records as possible before beginning your application as this will make the process simpler.

Ensure you thoroughly fill out all the parts of the application, and provide the SSA with copies of the pertinent medical and other records. Doing so will lessen the time involved in the SSA requesting medical records from various healthcare providers, or in requesting additional details from you.

You can complete your SSDI application:

  • Online
  • Schedule an appointment to fill it out in person at your local SSA office by calling 1-800-772-1213.

It is important to note that SSI applications can only be completed at the local office. You can schedule your appointment to complete both applications on the same day.

If necessary, seek assistance in filing your application. A friend or family member or a Social Security disability attorney or advocate can help you. Your physician or psychiatrist is also a crucial resource in applying for benefits as he or she can help you better understand the SSA’s documentation requirements and can help ensure your medical records contain the appropriate proof of your disability.

Filing for Benefits on Behalf of Someone Else

The application process is essentially the same, whether you’re applying for benefits for yourself or on behalf of someone who is not able to complete the process for him or herself.

If you are the caregiver or companion of a mentally ill individual or someone who has suffered a brain injury, you can submit an application for benefits online for SSDI, but you will need to schedule an appointment to complete the SSI application at the local SSA office.

The SSA requires an applicant to sign disability applications and other forms. This means you must either:

  • have the applicant with you and he or she must be capable of signing the forms,

OR

  • you will need to consult an attorney to learn how to get power of attorney or guardianship status to be legally authorized to sign the application on behalf of the disabled individual.

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