Mental Illness and Social Security Disability Benefits in Chicago


In Chicago and throughout the United States, mental illness can qualify an individual for Social Security disability benefits. However, even fully qualified individuals can sometimes have their claims denied. The Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates disability based on strict criteria, and applicants must present convincing evidence for the best chance of success.

If you need help filing a compelling disability application or your claim was denied, an experienced attorney may be able to help. With legal guidance and support, you could put forward a strong application for the benefits you need.

The Importance of Work History for SS Disability Applications

When someone wants to claim mental illness to receive Social Security disability benefits, there are a few factors to consider. Jobs are classified by skill levels: unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled. A person with a mental illness may be able to return to an unskilled job, depending on the severity of their illness. If an applicant performed skilled or semi-skilled work in the past but now has mental impairments, it can be beneficial to the claim.

In contrast, if an individual performed only unskilled work in the past, that could make it more difficult for them to be successful in their claim. Depending on the extent of their disability, a judge may find that the person is able to perform the work they previously did because there are no special skill sets, it was a low-stress job, or the job does not require much social interaction. When the job is an unskilled job or has limited social interaction, an individual must find another way to show they are disabled or can no longer work.

Psychological Evaluations

A psychological evaluation might be recommended if more evidence of disability is required. Sometimes, the applicant has not had much psychological treatment, had intermittent treatment, or the records do not provide the information the SSA needs. Sending someone for a psychological evaluation can help define their mental status and the deficits in their functioning.

At an evaluation, the mental health professional reviews evidence of the claimant’s previous treatment. They might ask the individual if they were hospitalized in the past for psychiatric reasons and whether they can provide the reasons. The mental health professional reviews any available medical records and evaluates the individual’s current psychiatric or psychological treatment. Current or past treatment might include a primary care doctor or psychiatrist prescribing psychiatric medications; a psychiatrist who treats the person regularly and monitors the person’s medications; or a psychologist or counselor who meets with the individual for sessions on a monthly basis. The physician or psychologist who reviews the individual’s case asks questions about their treatment history and impairment.

For example, they might ask the claimant about their living situation, past work, and social history. They determine whether the person has issues with drug or alcohol abuse. The mental health professional inquires about the individual’s family history and whether they experienced trauma during their childhood or adulthood. They get a sense of the person’s history to identify any traumatic impacts on their life, patterns of depression, or anxiety. Additionally, a mental status exam evaluates a person’s current functioning.

Seek Help from an Experienced Chicago SS Disability Attorney

If you need help seeking Social Security disability benefits for your mental illness, you could benefit from speaking with a dedicated Chicago attorney. They could help you gather evidence in support of your application, effectively present this evidence to the SSA, and appeal a denied claim. Call today for a consultation.

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