Mental health has gained front-page status in the news over the past few years. Some people suffer from burnout at work and are unable to continue to function on the job. Others come back from war, suffering from PTSD and other mental health illnesses. Many people fitting these and other mental health conditions apply for Social Security benefits but end up getting denied.

When denied, many people become violent towards themselves. As several mass shootings at the hands of allegedly mentally unstable people have also illustrated, it may make them violent towards others as well. This puts the general American population at risk when people who have mental health conditions do not receive the help they need, whether from SS or other sources.

In 2016, the SSA published an update to their ruling on mental health conditions and whether or not they qualified for benefits. SSA stated that its decisions regarding mental health disability claims reflected guidelines taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, the ruling did seem to be more focused on intellectual disability than, say, the crippling effects of depression.

People waiting for rulings on mental health conditions are not alone either. USA Today reported in 2018 that thousands of Americans die while waiting out the appeals process. The current count hit a whopping 800,000. In 2016 alone, 8,699 died waiting. In 2017, the number was even higher at 10,002. Most of these people have chronic illnesses that lead to physical pain and hindrances.

However, people suffering from mental health disorders are among them too. As with the published update from the SSA, the focus here on mental health eligibility seems to stem from “mental impairment.” This continues to make it difficult for people suffering from mental health problems to receive help.