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Social Security -- Disability Law

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Can You Get Disability for Mental Illness?

One in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. Those with a mental illness may have a difficult time finding resources to help them get medical care, disability assistance, and other federal and state benefits. Unfortunately, many other people living with a mental illness are not even aware they may be eligible for assistance.

If you are eligible for benefits, make sure you are getting the help you need. If you have questions about disability benefits, contact a Social Security disability lawyer for legal advice.

Resources for Mental Health Financial Assistance

Mental illnesses are mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders. The impact of these conditions can range from no impairment to severe impairment. With mental illness, there may be serious functional impairment that can limit life activities or interfere with daily life. A serious mental illness can be debilitating and disabling. As a result, many people with a mental illness can qualify for disability benefits. Even if you don’t qualify for government programs, there may be other nonprofit, charitable, or sliding-scale options for help.

Mental Health and Insurance

Most people get health insurance coverage through their employer. If you are not employed or can’t get coverage through work, you may be eligible under a family member’s plan, including your parents or your spouse. If you cannot get coverage, you may be able to find a plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) Marketplace. ACA plans cannot deny coverage for mental health issues or preexisting conditions.

You might also qualify for Medicare benefits even if you are under the age of 65 if you have been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 months. Medicare covers most treatments and services. However, you may still have some out-of-pocket costs for care not covered by Medicare. There are supplemental insurance plans that may be able to cover some of these costs.

Medicaid is another government program that provides health coverage to individuals with disabilities and people with low income. Low-income Medicaid eligibility is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). If you are receiving disability benefits, you are exempt from the income-based rules.

Government Disability Assistance Programs

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides supplemental income to individuals who are unable to work because of a disability. The Social Security Administration categorizes mental disorders into 11 categories:

  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders
  • Intellectual disorders
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma- and stressor-related disorders

To qualify for Social Security Disability for a mental illness, you generally must have medical documentation of the disorder. That means you will need to provide proof that a mental health disorder makes it extremely difficult or impossible for you to work, with requirements based on the specific type of disorder. This may include limitations like having trouble:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing your work

Free Clinics, Nonprofits, and Sliding-Scale Therapy Programs

A number of free clinics or low-cost health clinics offer care to individuals with limited financial resources. Some clinics also offer mental health services, including counseling and substance addiction care. This includes state or federally-funded clinics and nonprofits.

Some private mental health services also operate on a sliding scale to help provide care to those with limited resources. Local nonprofits can also help connect individuals seeking mental health care with providers who provide low-cost or pro bono care.

Federally Qualified Health Centers are community-based health care providers that provide care on a sliding scale, based on your ability to pay. You can find qualifying health centers through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Crowdfunding and Online Fundraising

While not for everyone, some people have success with crowdfunding or online fundraising to help get the care they need. This may involve making a video or presentation about what medical care you need, how much the care will cost, and spreading the word to get people to support your cause. Common crowdfunding sites include:

  • Kickstarter
  • Indiegogo
  • Patreon
  • Crowdfunder
  • GoFundMe

Apps and Technology for Mental Health

There is innovative technology that can help provide assistance to people with mental health needs. Apps and technology can provide assistance for people who are uncomfortable seeking in-person treatment or for those in remote or rural areas.

Mental health apps can provide around-the-clock help for people living with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. This includes mindfulness activities, meditation guidance, and symptom tracking. Many of the apps are free but have additional subscription fees for full access. Some common mental health apps include:

  • Calm
  • Moodfit
  • Headspace
  • What’s Up?
  • PTSD Coach
  • MoodTools
  • Happify
  • Talkspace
  • Shine
  • Panic Relief

Technology may also increase access to traditional mental health care, including psychiatric and psychological care and counseling. Many mental health care providers offer phone or video chat support. If you have concerns about visiting a counselor or doctor in person, find out if your provider offers telemedicine options.

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