Mental Illness And Disability Benefits In New York State

New York state residents with mental illness might struggle financially sometimes. If you have a mental illness preventing you from working, you still need money to support yourself.

The Social Security Administration, also called the SSA, can sometimes give you disability benefits if you have a mental condition that prevents working at a conventional job. We will talk about that in detail right now.


The first thing that must happen for you to get money through the state is that a qualified medical professional must diagnose you with a mental illness. You can’t collect any money if you merely suspect you have a particular condition.

The next thing to do is check up on your payment eligibility through two entities the Social Security Administration runs. You must earn Supplemental Security Income, sometimes abbreviated as SSI. You must also look for Social Security Disability Insurance, abbreviated as SSDI.

If you’re eligible for both of them, you can get money to help you support yourself and pay for your basic needs, such as food, utility payments, etc. You can also get healthcare instead of getting it through a conventional employer or buying it through the marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare.

Mental Illnesses That New York State Considers Disabilities

The prevailing theory, in New York state and elsewhere, is that if you have a serious mental illness, you probably can’t hold down a conventional job. What’s tricky is that some mental health professionals might not necessarily agree on what kind of jobs you can hold with different mental health diagnoses.

For instance, you might get a diagnosis of something like anxiety or depression. Some mental health professionals would argue that you can still work if you can find a job that does not exacerbate these conditions. Maybe you can work from home doing something like graphic design or freelance writing.

If you receive a diagnosis like schizophrenia, you may not be able to hold down a conventional job. You’ll need to get the proper diagnosis to use the SSDI and SSI programs, and that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Neurocognitive disorders usually allow you to use these programs. Those might include dementia from multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, or intellectual disorder, among others.

Extreme anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder can qualify. So can certain somatic disorders. Personality and impulse-control disorders can qualify you for these programs as well.

Trauma-related disorders like PTSD can usually get you help through these programs. You see that a lot with combat veterans. Some eating disorders can also get you on the list for benefits.

Gray Areas

Finding the right doctor is the problem that some individuals run into when trying to get a diagnosis so they can apply to one of these programs. Maybe you have a depressive disorder, but some doctors might feel that you can still work at a conventional job or work from home if you take the proper medication. These doctors will use a pretty rigid criteria to try and determine whether you should get these benefits or not.

Take major depressive disorder, for instance. A doctor might run an extensive series of tests to see if they think you’re trying to game the system. They will only suggest you should get benefits from the two programs if you meet five or more depressive disorder symptoms.

If you demonstrate three or four of those symptoms, that might disqualify you from getting benefits, even if you feel like you’re genuinely struggling with your mental health and your day-to-day life. You can always go to another doctor and get a second opinion, though, or a third one.

Limited Mental or Emotional Functioning

Everyone deals with emotional or physical impairment in different ways. If you feel a little different or abnormal, and you’re unsure why, it’s sometimes hard to articulate or demonstrate that when a doctor asks you questions or tries to observe your behavior.

That’s practically mental illness’s definition. You might feel like there’s something wrong with you, but it’s hard to put that difference into words. You might know you feel sad, angry, or depressed sometimes, but what you say may not match a mental deficiency’s symptoms word for word.

If so, you may experience significant frustration trying to get and use SSI and SSDI benefits. You might have to try and live and work with mental illness or impairment until the condition manifests itself in a more obvious way.

For you to get benefits from these programs, some people feel compelled to exaggerate their symptoms. It’s not because they’re trying to game the system. They feel like there’s something wrong with them, but they have good days and bad.

Mental health is never an exact science, which is why New York state residents who suffer from some of the conditions we mentioned might spend years trying to get the money and healthcare they so badly need. The programs we mentioned exist to help them. However, these individuals might not qualify until they either find a healthcare professional who agrees with a qualifying diagnosis or else they suffer some kind of breakdown that makes their impairment obvious.

It’s an imperfect system, but it’s one you have no choice but no navigate in New York state if you want these benefits. You’re probably going to have to submit to psychological and physical testing, some of which you might find invasive.

All you can do is go through with that if you hope to get the benefits you need. It’s best not to exaggerate your condition, but you should not try to hide any of its aspects, either.

Hopefully, you can find a system-approved doctor who agrees you can’t work a conventional job, and they will help you. Otherwise, you may have to struggle for years until you can convince these programs you have a serious enough condition to warrant state and federal government-subsidized healthcare and financial aid.

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