Living with a mental illness can be extremely challenging. Mental illness even prevents some men and women in New Jersey from maintaining gainful employment, making it impossible for them to financially support themselves. However, Social Security Disability Insurance — SSDI benefits — and Supplemental Security Income — SSI — are often available to people with diagnosed mental illnesses.

Evaluating disability claims for mental disorders

The Social Security Administration uses the Blue Book when evaluating both physical and mental disability claims. The Blue Book lists 11 mental disorders that, if diagnosed, might qualify a person for SSDI and SSI. These disorders are not all strictly considered mental illnesses, as the list also includes autism and intellectual disabilities. Some of the mental illnesses that show up on the list include:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder — PTSD

Simply having a mental illness is not enough to secure benefits, though. To meet the criteria for a disability, a mental illness or disorder must either prevent someone from working for a period of at least one year, or be likely to cause death. Some of the following information may be up for review when deciding whether that criteria is met:

  • Medical records
  • Treatment history
  • Evidence from family, friends and employers

Although many people living with mental illnesses want to maintain regular employment, it is often impossible to do so. For these men and women in New Jersey, SSDI benefits may be key to financial security. The journey to securing those benefits can be overwhelming though, although many find that learning more about the process, evaluation criteria and how it relates to their own disorders can be helpful.