How Much Does Disability Pay for Mental Health Disorders?

Many Social Security Disability applicants are unfamiliar with how the program works and often begin by asking the wrong questions.

How much disability pays for mental health disorders is one such query.

Your diagnosis has everything to do with whether you qualify for benefits. However, your condition does not determine the size of your monthly check!

Instead, the amount you contributed into the system via FICA taxes, family composition, and residence state could go into the calculation of your monthly benefit.

On the other hand, we can make rough estimates of how much you might receive by associating several diagnoses with FICA contribution levels.

How Much is a Disability Check?

How much will your Social Security monthly disability check be for a mental health disorder? To arrive at a reliable answer, you first have to consider the parameters for two different programs.

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to you and some family members if you worked long enough and paid FICA taxes
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) covers disabled adults and children who have limited earnings and resources
Table Of Contents

SSDI

Your work history and family composition drive how much Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays to approved recipients with a mental health disorder such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, PTSD, Depression, or Anxiety.

Use this online calculator to estimate benefits, as we did when researching this article. SSDI pertains to applicants meeting minimum work history requirements.

Work History

An SSDI recipient with a mental illness should receive a monthly amount close to the average of $1,258 because diagnoses do not impact benefit levels.

Your previous total contributions into the system determine whether your future checks will be below or above the average. Your earnings history is a proxy for the total FICA taxes paid, which is a function of annual contribution times the number of years. As you can see, the sums can be very different.

FICA taxes paid determine SSDI benefit
Annual FICA amount: 12.4% of earnings (employer and employee pay 6.2%) until reaching the yearly limit ($142,800 in 2021)
Number of years: The more years you work before filing a claim, the higher your total FICA contributions

Family Composition

An SSDI recipient with a mental illness could receive more than the national average monthly amount of $1,258 based on family composition. Each qualifying family member can receive an additional 50% of your check, up to a total maximum of 150% to 180%.

  • Your spouse is over 62
  • Your spouse cares for a child younger than 16 or disabled
  • Your unmarried child relies on you for support
    • Younger than 18
    • Younger than 19 still in high school
    • An older child whose disability began before 22

SSI

An SSI recipient with a mental illness could receive a disability check that is more than the national average amount of $794 based on their residence state. FICA contributions do not enter the equations for individuals who become disabled before reaching working age.

Some states supplement the federal SSI benefits with extra payments. Forty-six states provide an additional amount ranging from $10 to $400, depending on marital status, living arrangements, and other factors.

Amounts by Mental Health Diagnosis

Even though your earnings and work history determine how much Social Security Disability pays each month, your mental health diagnosis can have an indirect effect based on the onset age of symptoms.

Consider some of these condition-based factors that might influence the size of your check. Likewise, two related programs have other caveats to keep in mind.

Schizophrenia

The estimated amount that Social Security Disability pays to recipients diagnosed with Schizophrenia is lower for men than for women because of the typical age of onset for each gender. [1]

Men

The average age of Schizophrenia onset for men is the late teens and early twenties, meaning that their work history may be non-existent or extremely short and their earnings meager because of lack of experience.

  • Males with onset during their teen years might qualify for SSI with an average monthly base amount of $794 because they never work and pay FICA taxes.
  • Men with onset in their early twenties could be eligible for SSDI but at lower benefit levels because of short work history in entry-level jobs.

For example, consider the possible SSDI monthly payouts for a man earning $25,000 annually whose Schizophrenia began shortly after entering the workforce and before winning meaningful raises due to job experience.

Onset AgeYears Paying FICASSDI Amount

20

2

$1,021

24

4

$1,261

Women

The average age of Schizophrenia onset for women is the late twenties to early thirties, meaning they might accumulate 10 to 15 years of work history and FICA tax payments before symptoms make it impossible to hold down a job.

Therefore, women diagnosed with Schizophrenia will more frequently receive SSDI benefits at higher levels than men because they pay FICA taxes for more years and earn more each year via experience-based raises.

For example, consider the possible SSDI monthly payouts for a woman earning $35,000 annually whose Schizophrenia began close to a decade after entering the workforce and after winning meaningful raises due to job experience.

Onset AgeYears Paying FICASSDI Amount

28

10

$1,527

31

13

$1,691

34

16

$1,774

Bipolar Disorder

The estimated monthly amount that Social Security Disability pays to recipients diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder is below the national average because of the relatively young onset age. [2]

The median age of onset for Bipolar Disorder is 25, although it can occur during teen years and childhood.

  • Bipolar onset during childhood or teen years leads to SSI benefits because the individual might not work and pay FICA taxes, yielding the typical $794 base monthly amount.
  • Bipolar onset during your early twenties could lead to SSDI benefits, translating into a payout below the $1,258 monthly average because of short work history and low earnings.

Many Bipolar individuals can work, but both mood extremes interfere with their ability to perform job duties well – possibly impacting wages and annual FICA contributions.

  • Manic episodes can include impulsive behaviors, reckless decisions, and unusual risk-taking
  • Depressive episodes can include difficulty sleeping or just getting out of bed to function

Autism

The estimated amount that Social Security Disability pays to recipients diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is typically the smallest because the condition manifests in childhood and continues through adult life.

You may get a more precise approximation by examining possible scenarios for the three clinical levels of autism. [3]

Level-3

ASD Level-3 individuals require extreme support because of severe deficits in social communication skills and great difficulty changing action or focus. These needs become apparent at an early age and can make the person unemployable.

Many level-3 autistic recipients qualify for SSI rather than SSDI because they never work and pay FICA taxes. Therefore, the average SSI monthly amount of $794 applies.

Level-2

ASD Level-2 individuals require substantial support to help with their limited social interactions, narrow interests, and repetitive behaviors. Many level 2 people are capable of holding down a part-time minimum wage job.

Level-2 autistic recipients might become eligible for SSDI after meeting a three-part earnings test.

  1. Recency of work before age 24: 1.5 years over the previous 3 years
  2. Duration of work before age 28: 1.5 years of work total
  3. Unable to perform Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Suppose an individual with autism began working at age 18, earning just below the SGA maximum ($1,310 monthly in 2021), or $15,600 annually. The SSDI benefit amounts would gradually increase each year as FICA contributions accumulate.

Onset AgeYears Paying FICASSDI Amount

20

2

$779

25

7

$1,049

35

17

$1,185

50

32

$1,400

Level 1

Level 1 ASD recipients require support to help overcome their difficulty in initiating social interactions or planning and organizing activities. They may be capable of full-time employment.

Level 1 autistic individuals are not eligible for SSDI or SSI if they earn above the SGA monthly limit. Therefore, their monthly amount would be zero in this case. Otherwise, consult the chart above for an estimate.

PTSD

The estimated amount that Social Security Disability pays for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) depends on when the harrowing event happened relative to when you began and stopped working.

Because there is no typical age of onset for PTSD, it is impossible to break down the benefit levels to provide a meaningful estimate.

  • People with PTSD victimized during childhood might receive SSI and the typical $794 monthly amount.
  • PTSD recipients of SSDI might receive more or less than the average $1,258 monthly check if the trauma occurred later or earlier in their adult life.

Depression and Anxiety

Likewise, there is no typical amount that Social Security Disability pays each month for depression or anxiety because your diagnosis does not determine the size of your check. Therefore, begin with the two average figures and add or subtract accordingly.

  • SSI average of $794 (less common for depression or anxiety) plus the supplemental payments provided by the state where you live
  • SSDI average of $1,258 goes higher or lower based on previous FICA contributions: annual amount times number of years

Mood disorders can affect people at any age, making it challenging to break down estimates based on FICA contributions in a meaningful way. [4]

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Specific Phobias: average onset age 7 years old
  • Stress
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: average onset age is 19
  • Major Depressive Disorder: average onset age is 32
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder: average onset age of 32
  • Situational Depression: can happen any time
    • Death of loved one
    • Divorce
    • Unemployment

Article Citations:

[1] National Alliance on Mental Illness: Schizophrenia

[2] National Alliance on Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder

[3] Very Well Health – 3 Levels of Autism

[4] Anxiety and Depression Association of America