Anxiety may be the most common mental health disorder in the United States. According to some reports, 1 in 5 American adults has an anxiety disorder.
While surveys show that Americans are more willing to talk about mental health than they used to be — and that younger people, in particular, are more likely to discuss the topic — many feel uncomfortable talking about their own mental health issues at work. Some fear that discussing these problems will hurt their careers.
For some workers, anxiety and other mental health issues can become so severe that they make it impossible to hold down a job. Can these workers collect Social Security Disability benefits?
Disability benefits for mental health disorders
The Social Security Disability Insurance program provides benefits for some workers with mental health disorders, including anxiety. However, the Social Security Administration’s rules for eligibility are quite strict.
The SSA’s rules of eligibility have a listing for “anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.” To be severe enough to make a worker eligible for benefits, an anxiety disorder must involve three of the following symptoms:
- Sleep problems
- Muscular tension
- Problems with concentration
As will all Social Security Disability benefits, the worker must have accrued a sufficient number of work credits in order to be eligible to receive benefits, no matter how severe the disability.
Applications, hearings and appeals
Many people who have sufficient work credits and serious symptoms nonetheless see their applications denied. In fact, the SSA turns down the majority of applicants the first time they apply.
The good news about this is that the SSA has a well-developed system for applicants to appeal these denials. The system involves multiple rounds of hearings, and can even lead up a formal appeal in federal court.
At any stage in the process — from initial applications to hearings and beyond — the help of an experienced attorney can greatly improve an applicant’s chances of getting the benefits they need.