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How Much Does Mental Health Disability Pay?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
April 22, 2024  ·  3 min read
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If you have a mental health condition and are unable to work because of it, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits. It can be challenging to win benefits for mental and psychological disabilities, but more than three million U.S. citizens currently receive Social Security benefits for mental conditions.

Below, we’ll share the average Social Security payment amount for different mental conditions. It’s important to remember that your monthly benefit amount depends on several factors, like your employment history, income, and resources. 

What mental health conditions qualify for disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration recognizes several mental disorders as qualifying conditions for disability benefits. The SSA Blue Book includes a “Listing of Impairments” and eligibility criteria for the following types of mental health conditions:

Suppose you’re unable to work because of a mental impairment that’s not in the SSA Blue Book, and you have medical evidence to prove it. In that case, you can still qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. 

“A critical piece of winning disability benefits in a mental health case is that your limitations and symptoms are discussed in detail in your medical records," says Sydney Hershenhorn, a lawyer at Atticus. "The best way to make sure this happens is by seeing a specialist regularly and talking to them about your condition."

SSDI vs. SSI for mental health

The Social Security Administration administers two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs both offer monthly payments and healthcare coverage. The criteria to qualify for health conditions is the same, but the technical eligibility requirements differ.

  1. SSDI: To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked at least 5 of the last 10 years and paid Social Security taxes. Your mental condition must meet the SSA’s “definition of disability,” and your monthly earnings cannot exceed $1,550 (the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount.)

  2. SSI: This need-based program does not require a work history record. Instead, you must be under 67, make less than $1,550 monthly, and have limited resources and assets. Check out our in-depth guide on SSI resources that will help you determine your technical eligibility.

SSDI beneficiaries automatically qualify for Medicare (after a two-year waiting period), and SSI recipients qualify for Medicaid upon approval of their disability claim. 

Can I get SSI and SSDI benefits at the same time?

Yes, you can receive SSDI and SSI benefits simultaneously. For applicants who are eligible, it makes sense to apply to both programs. There is a 5-month waiting period for SSDI benefits to begin after approval, and a 24-month qualifying period for Medicare. SSI benefits, on the other hand, are immediate and can be helpful while applicants wait for an SSDI decision.

See if your mental illness qualifies for disability.

How much are disability benefits?

Each year, the Social Security Administration increases the payment amount to meet rising inflation with a cost-of-living adjustment. In 2024, the maximum payment for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is $3,822 monthly.

Most people get much less, though — the average SSDI payment is $1,537. The maximum monthly Social Security Income (SSI) payment is $943 for individuals and $1,415 for couples. The average monthly amount for SSI benefits is $697.

How are disability benefits calculated?

Your disability payment amount is determined by your average lifetime earnings before your mental conditions made it difficult to work. The SSA calculates your average covered earnings over a certain period, also known as your average index monthly earnings (AIME). This average determines your primary insurance amount (PIA), which the SSA uses to establish your monthly payment amount.

You can read more about the SSA calculations here, or skip the math and find your estimated payment amount with our disability calculator below. 

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

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How much does mental health disability pay?

According to the SSA’s latest data, here are the average disability payment amounts for mental health:

Mental health condition

Average SSDI payment

Average SSI payment

Autism spectrum disorder 



Developmental disorders



Intellectual disorders



Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders



Neurocognitive disorders



Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders



Other mental disorders



3 tips for applying for benefits with a mental health condition

The key to a successful disability application is sufficient medical evidence. Physical illnesses can be supported with diagnostic tests, like X-rays and bloodwork, but mental illnesses can be more challenging to document. Follow these tips to strengthen your application:

  1. Keep a symptom log. Tracking your symptoms and pain daily can help you demonstrate your limitations. A journal can help you complete the application forms and describe your pain accurately.

  2. Follow your doctor’s treatment plan. To help the SSA evaluate your case, it is essential to stay consistent with the medications and treatment plan outlined by your psychologist or psychiatrist.

  3. Request an MRFC form. Your psychologist or psychiatrist can complete a “mental residual functional capacity” (MRFC) form to document how your condition impacts your daily life and functioning. 

Read this guide for more information on applying for benefits with a mental health condition.

Get help with your benefits application 

A disability lawyer can determine the necessary medical evidence for your condition and help you gather medical records. "A great lawyer will help you gather medical evidence and make sure the SSA knows exactly why your condition makes it difficult to work," says Sydney Hershenhorn, a lawyer at Atticus.

A disability attorney can also assist you in filing an appeal with the SSA if your application is denied, and even represent you at a disability hearing with an administrative law judge.

Atticus has helped hundreds of disability applicants with mental health conditions win Social Security benefits. Take our 2-minute disability quiz to see if you might qualify, and give us a call for free personalized advice about your situation. We can introduce you to a disability lawyer, if you’d like.

Is it Hard to Get Disability for Mental Illness?

Can you get disability for mental illness?

While there are some additional challenges to getting disability with a mental illness, you can get SSDI or SSI for mental conditions. Around 34.6% of current disability applicants have a mental health condition of some kind. Read more about how to qualify here.

Is it hard to get disability for mental illness?

It can be harder to get disability benefits with a mental illness, but it’s still possible. The Social Security disability evaluation process is heavily based on medical evidence, so you’ll want to work closely with your doctors to document your limitations. Read more application tips here

What mental illnesses qualify for disability?

Any mental illness that prevents you from working can qualify for disability benefits. Amongst the most common are anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, developmental disorders, autism spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and schizophrenia spectrum disorders. For a full list of conditions that qualify (including the conditions that medically qualify automatically) head here.

How do you apply for disability for mental illness?

You can apply online, in-person, over-the-phone, or with the help of an attorney. If you don’t have a lawyer, we recommend applying in-person at an SSA office. You’ll want to make sure you have all your employment and medical records ready. Read our full application guide to ensure your best chances of success. 

Can I still work while applying for disability benefits?

Legally, disability benefits are for people who are too sick to work—and working too much may indicate to the Social Security Administration that you don’t actually need benefits. If you’re not working full-time, and are making below the SSA’s mandated maximum amounts per month, you can still apply. For the full details on working and SSDI/SSI, read more here

Will the SSA or the judge reject my disability application because I use drugs or alcohol?

Technically, you can get approved for disability even if you’re currently abusing drugs or alcohol as long as you can show that your medical condition would still be disabling if you were sober. If your medical records show that your medical condition would go away if you did not drink or use drugs, your application will be denied. We answered this question more thoroughly in our “Ask Atticus” column.

Recommended Articles:

Is it Hard to Get Disability for Mental Illness? (Yes, But This Can Help)

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What Medical Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability?

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See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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