Abromson & Carey, Attorneys at Law
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Benefits for mental disabilities

The Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs provide recipients with mental illness coverage. Certain requirements must be met for benefits under these programs.

Recipients with a physical or mental condition who limit their work abilities are eligible for SSDI benefits for mental conditions. Generally, applicants had to perform work for a specified time before the SSDI claim.

Evidence should be submitted as part of the claim because mental health professionals reviewing claims may not be fully aware of the applicant's condition or the SSA list of qualifying mental conditions may not be comprehensive. When a condition is not a listed mental condition, the claim can meet criteria for other listed disabilities.

Under SSI, recipients are eligible for benefits based upon low income or financial need and having a disability. Current assets and income determine financial need.

To meet SSI requirements for benefits, an applicant must meet the listed criteria or a special residual function capacity assessment. Substance abuse cannot be a contributory factor but commitment to a treatment program can demonstrate that an applicant meets criteria for a disability unrelated to substance abuse.

In addition to meeting the disability requirements, SSI applicants must earn less than $733 per month for single applicants or $1,100 for couples.

Some income is excluded such as public housing assistance, any $65 from work wages and half of work wages greater than $65. The value of housing or food from a nongovernment source does count as income, along with Social Security benefits, pension and veterans' benefits.

Any state supplement from New Jersey also increases the income limit below which a person can qualify for SSI. Monthly benefits are calculated from adding the state supplement to the federal benefit rate paid under SSI, $733 per month, and then subtracting monthly income to assure that as much money is provided without exceeding income limits.

SSI also has asset restrictions. These include a maximum $2,000 in individual assets and $3,000 for couples. Children are limited to $2,000 in addition to the parent's limit. Assets do not include a primary residence, one car, wedding and engagement rings, certain financial support and burial savings.

Because these requirements are complicated, an attorney can help applicants with filing for disability benefits. Lawyers may also assist with appeals.

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)," Accessed March 21, 2017

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