General Question

jca's avatar

Does having a mental health diagnosis automatically qualify someone as "disabled?"?

Asked by jca (36002points) September 17th, 2010

A friend of mine is applying for Section 8 (Federal Housing Subsidy). Since I work for the government, she was asking me for advice. One of the questions asked on the forms was something about “Do you have a disability?” or “Are you disabled?” She told me she is bipolar and therefore thinks she should put yes, as that is a disability.

I disagree. I think that since she does not receive any sort of disability, she is not classified as disabled. She works full time, but i know a lot of people who are qualified as disabled work, also, so working in itself would not be the determining factor.

She said that since bipolar can be something that is disabling, and may be disabling in the future, she is disabled. I feel that if everyone with a mental health diagnosis considered themselves as “disabled” then that would probably be about 25% of the population, at least.

What is the technical (in other words legal) definition of disabled?

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9 Answers

prolificus's avatar

Unless she had applied to the Social Security Administration to be declared legally disabled, she cannot legally claim she has a disability.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I believe that you are correct. To receive Section 8 housing assistance, you have to be declared disabled by the Social Security Administration.

L2G's avatar

This page at the SSA’s website will give you an idea of the kinds of mental conditions that can be considered to be disabilities. But as @prolificus and @hawaii_jake already said, it’s not automatic; you have to apply to SSA and have your case approved by them. In general, a person must have “impairment-related functional limitations that are incompatible with the ability to do any gainful activity” to be considered for disability, and rigorous documentation of this is necessary.

Your friend could indeed qualify for disability based on bipolar personality disorder if she can demonstrate that the disorder keeps her from being able to work. Presumably her doctor or psychiatrist would assist with the necessary documentation.

Nullo's avatar

I would say not. I, for instance, have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (recently re-worked as a subset of ADHD), and find that I’m not disabled by it in the least.

iamthemob's avatar

The legal definition of disability differs depending on whether you’re talking about receiving SS benefits, employment discrimination, and other situations. For Section 8 housing, I would look at the Code of Federal Regulations to see if there’s anything that disqualifies her – there’s a helpful link here.

In any case, the feds will make their own determination of whether she qualifies.

mattbrowne's avatar

Ignorance. Most people with (mild) forms of mental illnesses are not disabled.

asoccer345's avatar

Maybe if she applies, but most likely not.

redhen4's avatar

From what I’ve seen and heard, you do need to go thru SSA to qualify, which can take 12–18 months.
That said, there are some who are just unable to work due to their illness, others can work and some are inbetween. Some are hospitalized off and on.
I worry that one day I may be “disabled” due to Bipolar II. A support group is where I have gotten my information.

AlaskanNobody's avatar

Section 8 housing vouchers are based on economic need. Those with disabilities receive a boost up the waiting list but no more than that, honestly. Unless she has a legally declared disability by the Social Security Administration, HUD will not accept her self-designation of “disabled.”

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