Why Mental Disability Claims Are Often Denied

Mental illnesses can be just as disabling as physical ones. Yet, mental disability claims tend to get denied more often than other types of disabilities.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only 2 out of 10 people suffering from mood disorders are receiving disability benefits. Though inconclusive, this illustrates how hard it is to get disability benefits for mental disorders.

So, why is it so hard to claim mental disability benefits in the US? There are actually a variety of reasons.

As with other disability claims, the SSA will evaluate if your condition:

  • affects your ability to work or do any type gainful employment
  • is expected to last for more than a year

The SSA also keeps a list of mental disabilities that can qualify for benefits. If your condition is not on this list, applications are usually denied right off the bat.

A person with a mental disability whose social security claim was denied

What Mental Disorders Qualify For Disability?

Also known as the “blue book”, the SSA’s disability evaluation handbook lists the criteria for mental disorders to be considered a disability. If your condition meets all the criteria laid therein, your claim will most likely get approved.

Here are the mental disorders included in the list:

  1. Neurocognitive disorders
  2. Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  3. Depression, bipolar and related disorders
  4. Intellectual Disorder
  5. Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
  6. Somatic symptom and related disorders
  7. Personality and impulse control disorders
  8. Autism Spectrum Disorder
  9. Neurodevelopmental disorders
  10. Eating Disorders
  11. Trauma and stressor-related disorders

Common Reasons Why Mental Disability Claims Are Denied

If your mental condition is on the list but your application still got denied, here are some things you could be doing wrong:

Lack of Strong Clinical Evidence

Unlike other disabilities, mental disorders don’t manifest physically. This makes it harder to prove.

Physical impairments can easily be proven with x-ray or blood test results. But clinical tests to determine medical disorders can be subjective. The findings are based mostly on the observations of the medical personnel based on the behavior of the patient. This is why the SSA is more strict in accepting clinical evidence for mental disorders.

No History of Psychological Treatments

Most mental disability claimants fail to provide a treatment history for the disorder they are applying for. This is especially true for depression-related cases. Because of society’s attitude towards depression, most patients will just take in anti-depressants without even seeing a psychiatrist.

Without the applicant’s treatment history, the SSA will have a hard time evaluating their condition and how likely it is to affect their work.

Scant Supporting Evidence

Memory impairment testing, IQ tests, and reports from mental health professionals are just some of the evidence you need to include in your application. But most of the time, the SSA will also require other evidence to support your claim. This can include written testimonies of the people you interact with regularly and case files from a social worker (if any). If your supporting evidence is not enough to back your claim, chances are it will get denied.

Non-Compliance With Prescribed Treatments

The SSA can outright deny your claim if they determined that you are not following the prescribed treatments for your mental illness.

Remember, the SSA will want to make sure that you are really disabled and not just using your condition as an excuse to receive free welfare. One way to prove that is your willingness to get better so you can get back to the workforce sooner. If you aren’t willing to comply with the prescribed treatments, then that means you don’t want to improve your condition.

Social and Cultural Bias

The lack of understanding on the nature of mental disorders has built a cultural and social bias towards people suffering from it. Other people will just tell them to “get over it” or that “it’s all in your head”. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude permeates all levels of society including some SSA employees. This makes it all the more difficult to prove that you deserve disability benefits.

Lack of Duration

One fundamental criterion the SSA uses to gauge disability is that it must be expected to last for at least a year or can lead to death. But most mental disorders don’t have a definite duration. With proper treatments, some conditions can improve in a matter of months. While others may last throughout the patient’s lifetime.

How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Approved

If you want your claim to get approved faster, here are some steps you can take:

  • Gather as much supporting evidence as you can. As with most disability claims, the more evidence you have the higher your chances of convincing the SSA that you really are disabled.
  • Follow your mental health specialist’s prescriptions. If you want to prove to the SSA that you’re working towards getting better, you need to follow your prescribed treatments diligently.
  • Consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer like Victor Malca. His more than 25 years of experience helping injured workers in Florida makes him the best person to help you with your social security disability claim. He can help you get the benefits you rightfully deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.


Victor Malca Law has over 25 years of litigation experience, we are the most trusted workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida. Our area of expertise is in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claim social security disability benefits.

Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are also recognized by our peers. Book a free consultation today.

Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca LawAbout The Author

is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.

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