One of the first questions people often ask me when considering a claim for Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits is whether their specific medical condition qualifies for benefits under Social Security law.

Mental/Psychological Disorders That Qualify for Benefits

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) including battered-wife syndromeWhile the Social Security Administration may eventually consider numerous contributing factors in considering whether to grant your claim, it starts with a predetermined list of “approved” medical issues. Many people suffering from mental illness and psychological and emotional problems are surprised to learn that their disorder does qualify sufferers for benefits. These disorders include:

  • Depression and manic depression
  • Schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Autism and Asperger’s syndrome
  • Learning disabilities, including Dyslexia, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Mental retardation
  • Personality Disorder e.g. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and those Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)
  • Addictions, especially if the sufferer is no longer engaged in substance abuse
  • Victims of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the mental, psychological and emotional problems that can result
  • Other mental and psychological disorders identified in the DSMIV-TR Manual of Psychiatric Diagnoses

Portland SSD and SSI Attorney Richard A. Sly has handled hundreds of Social Security benefits claims and appeals for victims of mental illness and psychological and emotional problems.

Are you or a family member considering filing a claim for Social Security disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits? Contact an attorney with over 30 years of experience. Contact lawyer Richard A. Sly for a free consultation regarding your claim.

We are experienced in handling almost every type of mental illness and psychological issue, and can provide personal, committed and knowledgeable representation from your initial application to your final appeals before an administrative law judge and the appeals counsel in Virginia.

Contact a Portland Social Security Benefits Attorney

If you have questions regarding Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income law, contact us. We offer free initial consultations, are conveniently located in downtown Portland near public transportation, and work exclusively on a contingency fee basis, so that you pay nothing out of pocket. Contact us online or call us at 503-224-0436.


Autism is a developmental disorder that can have profound impacts on a person’s ability to communicate, think and maintain social relationships. Because all of these elements come into play when it comes to holding down a job, autistic individuals may not be able to earn a living or support themselves financially. In such cases, these individuals will likely be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and will have the best chances of obtaining the benefits they need by working with an experienced attorney.

How Autistic Individuals Qualify for Disability Benefits

In order to obtain disability benefits, individuals with autism will have to prove to the Social Security Administration that they have autism and that their condition is severe enough to prevent them from being able to work. Specifically, some of the requirements include proving that an individual has been medically documented to have:

A restricted ability to participate in and complete certain activities
A restricted set of interests
Measureable impacts to his verbal and nonverbal communication skills
Measureable impacts to his imaginative abilities and his social interactions.
Additionally, autistic people applying for disability benefits will have to prove that their condition has:

Significantly impacted their daily life
Made it difficult for them to function socially
Impaired their ability to concentrate
Prevented them from being able to get or keep a job.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is an affective disorder that is generally characterized by profound mood disturbances, ranging from deep depressive states to fully manic states. While such severe mood swings can have a serious impact on an individual’s personal life, they can also prevent him or her from being able to hold down a job and earn a living. In such cases, those who are living with bipolar disorder:

Will likely have a right to Social Security Disability benefits
Will have the best chances of securing the benefits they need by working with the esteemed Portland Social Security Disability lawyer Richard A. Sly.

Qualifying for Bipolar Disorder Benefits

In order for individuals with bipolar disorder to obtain federal disability benefits, they must be able to prove the severity of their condition to the Social Security Administration, which has some very specific requirements. Specifically, qualifying for benefits for bipolar disorder necessitates that afflicted individuals:

Have medically documented proof of the persistence of their condition (whether their bipolar disorder is continuous or intermittent) – This includes establishing that they have both:

Depressive syndrome, which must be characterized by at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in nearly all activities
  • Poor appetite that has caused significant weight fluctuations
  • Sleeping problems
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
  • Paranoia, hallucinations and/or delusions

Manic syndrome, which must be characterized by at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased sleeping
  • Paranoia, hallucinations and/or delusions
  • Pressure of speech
  • Spontaneous, dangerous action without regard for consequences
  • High susceptibility to distraction

Provide proof that the condition has restricted their daily activities and impaired their social function on an ongoing basis
Alternately, individuals will have to provide proof that their bipolar disorder has persisted for at least two years and the condition has impacted their ability to hold a job and work.

Depression & Anxiety

Understanding the Government’s Definitions of Disabling Depression and AnxietyAt the law firm of Portland Social Security disability lawyer Richard A. Sly, we help clients in Oregon and Washington file for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD/DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on the basis of depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.

Depression and anxiety are serious medical conditions that are proven, in severe cases, to restrict people’s ability to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) formally recognizes both depression and anxiety as disorders that can qualify applicants for disability benefits.

  • Clinical depression: For purposes of Social Security, depression is considered a disability when it has multiple symptoms from among a list that includes difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in activities, decreased energy and suicidal thoughts. You may also qualify for benefits if you have bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety comes in a number of forms, including panic attacks, irrational fears, recurrent obsession and compulsions, and generalized persistent anxiety. The SSA has specific criteria for when each of these is disabling. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also analyzed under the criteria for anxiety disorders.

In order to get disability benefits for your depression or anxiety, you will need medical evidence that you meet the criteria. The testimony of a therapist may help your claim but is generally considered less convincing than a formal diagnosis by a licensed medical doctor.

Organic Brain Injuries

Organic brain injuries refer to any brain damage that has not been caused by some outside trauma (like a blow to the head) and that results in psychological, cognitive and/or behavioral abnormalities. While mild types of organic brain injuries may be able to be effectively treated through a combination of therapy and medications, in more serious cases, these brain injuries can severely impact a person’s ability to live independently, maintain social relationships and even earn a living.

Qualifying for Benefits for Organic Brain Injuries

An organic brain injury can qualify afflicted individuals for Social Security Disability benefits; however, these individuals will have to meet certain requirements and provide some specific proof in order to be granted these benefits. Namely, some of the requirements for establishing the presence of an organic brain injury and qualifying for disability benefits include:

  • Demonstrating the loss of specific cognitive functions and/or behavioral disorders
  • Providing medical documentation establishing that at least one of the following factors affects the individual in question:
    • Significant memory problems
    • Hallucinations, delusions and/or other perception disturbances
    • Significant mood swings or personality changes
    • Lack of impulse control
    • Disorientation
  • Proving that the condition has restricted or impaired the individual’s day-to-day activities and/or social relationships.

In some cases, providing proof that the organic brain injury has persisted for at least two years and has impacted a person’s ability to work and keep a job is also sufficient to meeting the requirements for disability benefits for organic brain injuries.

Other DSM-5 Disorders

DSM-5 disorders are mental health impairments that are explained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), an extensive professional text maintained by the American Psychiatric Association and used by mental health professionals when diagnosing certain mental health conditions. The conditions referred to as DSM-5 disorders are generally very serious mental health disorders that impair affected individuals’ abilities to:

  • Think clearly and rationally
  • Control their emotions
  • Communicate (either verbally or nonverbally)
  • Maintain social relationships.

Since these abilities are essential to being employed, individuals living with DSM-5 disorders often have a difficult time getting and keeping a job, which, in turn, can make them unable to support themselves financially.

When people with DSM-5 disorders are unable to work, they will likely be entitled to federal disability benefits. However, obtaining these benefits is almost never easy or straightforward; therefore, it’s crucial that these individuals and their families work with an experienced lawyer who is highly knowledgeable when it comes to Social Security law and the necessary steps to take to getting disability benefits.

At the Law Firm of Richard A. Sly, our seasoned legal professionals have more than three decades of experience successfully handling disability claims, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to help our clients with DSM-5 disorders obtain the benefits to which they are entitled.

Types of DSM-5 Disorders

Some of the specific types of DSM-5 disorders that are generally considered to be qualifying disorders for Social Security Disability benefits include (but are not limited to):

  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Depressive disorders.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits for DSM-5 Disorders

Although the specific qualifications for obtaining Social Security Disability benefits for DSM-5 disorders will depend on the specific type of mental health condition a person has, in general, an individual who is applying for these benefits will likely have to prove to the Social Security Administration that:

  • He does, in fact, have the condition in question, and this proof must come in the form of official medical documentation.
  • His condition is severe enough to prevent him from being able to work.
  • His condition has persisted for some period of time.

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders refer to a range of mental conditions resulting in people losing the ability to distinguish reality, think clearly and communicate. Consequently, psychotic disorders – also referred to as psychoses – typically make it very difficult for affected individuals to be able to maintain social relationships, get jobs and earn a living. When a person is diagnosed with any type of psychotic disorder and this impairment is severe enough to impair his ability to work, he will:

  • Likely be entitled to disability benefits
  • Have the best chances of obtaining these benefits by working with a seasoned attorney who will champion his rights.

At the Law Firm of Richard A. Sly, our Portland Social Security Disability lawyer and dedicated legal staff have been aggressively advocating the rights of individuals with psychotic disorders and other mental impairments for more than three decades. While we are passionate about helping these individuals obtain the benefits to which they are entitled, we are also committed to helping them secure the maximum possible benefits for their claims so they can focus on their treatment and overall mental health.

How to Qualify for Disability Benefits for Psychotic Disorders

The Social Security Administration has laid out a number of specific requirements that people must meet if they want to obtain disability benefits for their psychotic disorders. Some of these requirements include:

  • Providing medical documentation that the applicant suffers from delusions, hallucinations, catatonic states, severe speech impairments and/or incoherence – Such conditions can be either continuous or intermittent.
  • Establishing that the symptoms of the psychotic disorder have impaired the applicant’s ability to perform certain day-to-day activities, function on a social level and/or concentrate.

The applicant may also prove that he deserves disability benefits by proving that, for at least two years, he has lived with and has been receiving treatment for his psychotic disorder.


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that can impair a person’s ability to think clearly, decipher reality, have normal emotional responses and maintain social relationships. As a result, maintaining a job and earning a living can be extremely difficult – if not impossible – for individuals with schizophrenia. When this is the case, these individuals will likely be entitled to disability benefits, and they will have the best chances of obtaining these benefits by working with a seasoned attorney like Richard A. Sly.

Portland Social Security Disability lawyer Richard A. Sly has been advocating the rights of his clients for more than three decades, and he is committed to doing whatever it takes to helping individuals with schizophrenia and other mental disorders obtain the benefits they deserve.

Requirements for Disability Benefits for Schizophrenia

To prove that a person has schizophrenia that is severe enough to qualify him for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration has set forth the following requirements – namely, that the individual:

  • Provide medical documentation that, either continuously or intermittently, he has suffered from at least one of the following:
    • Delusions and/or hallucinations
    • Catatonic states
    • Grossly disorganized behavior
    • Emotional withdrawal
    • Incoherence and/or significant speech impairments
  • Prove that the schizophrenia has restricted or impaired his ability to perform day-to-day activities and/or maintain social relationships.

Alternatively, providing proof that the schizophrenia has persisted for at least two years and has impacted the individual’s ability to work and keep a job may also be sufficient to meeting the requirements for disability benefits.

Need Help Securing Benefits? Contact Portland Disability & SSI Lawyer Richard A. Sly

For experienced help applying for federal disability and/or SSI benefits, contact Portland Disability & SSI Lawyer Richard A. Sly.

Since 1963, Attorney Richard A. Sly has been dedicated to helping his clients navigate the complexities of the SSA so that they can secure the benefits they need and deserve. Skilled at building his clients the strongest possible cases the first time around, Richard Sly is also experienced at pursuing appeals when mistakes or wrong decisions lead to reductions, denials or the termination of benefits.

The bottom line is that, with Richard Sly on your side, you can be sure that you have a seasoned advocate working tirelessly to help you secure the full amount of benefits to which you may be entitled.

Call (503) 406-1471 or email us via the contact form on this page to set up a free, no obligations case evaluation and find out more about:

  • What you need to do to position your claim for approval
  • How Richard Sly can help you.

Conveniently located in downtown Portland (near public transportation), we serve clients throughout the states of Washington and Oregon.