Best known for her heroism a long time ago and far, far away, actress Carrie Fisher became a darling across planet earth for her role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie trilogy. There was a recent disturbance in the force however, when we learned that Fisher suffered a major heart attack while travelling on a plane from London to Los Angeles on Christmas eve last Saturday. After spending less than a week in a coma, she died from the illness.

At her bedside throughout the ordeal, and even while travelling, her good friend and service dog, Gary accompanied her. Fisher had been open about her struggles with mental disorders, including bipolar disorder, and often cited her dog Gary as a companion and source of much relief.

/the news of Fisher’s death and reminder of her history with a mental condition is a good opportunity for us to remind folks that the Social Security Administration has two programs, the Social Security Disability Insurance program, or SSDI, and the Supplemental Security Income program, or SSI, designed to help Americans who suffer from debilitating injuries, illnesses and mental conditions. Included in these are both Social Security disability benefits for bipolar disorder, and heart disease.

In order to qualify, one must prove that the condition is expected to last at least a year or end in death, and that the condition is severe enough that the victim is unable to find and maintain gainful employment. There are different criteria for entry into either program, based on your financial situation and whether you paid into SSDI though previous payroll taxes.