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Social Security Disability Benefits For Depression
I have been diagnosed with depressive disorder. Can I get Social Security disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
Being diagnosed of a depressive disorder is just the start. In your Social Security disability claim, the main focus is usually on the symptoms you experience from depression and how they affect your ability to do full-time work – both physical and mental, eight (8) hours per day, five (5) days per week.
Can I get Social Security disability for depression?
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a serious medical disorder that negatively affects your moods. It involves feelings of sadness and/or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes that depression can affect your daily activities, including your work.
A depressive disorder can take on various forms such as persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), post-partum depression, psychotic depression, seasonal effective disorder, and bipolar depression. Across these forms, symptoms can range from mild to severe, and typically include feeling sad, lost interest in activities once enjoyed, appetite changes, sleep changes, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, thinking difficulties, and thoughts of suicide or death.
To determine if your depression is disabling you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step process.
Step 1. Are you working?
First, the SSA checks if you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). If you are, the SSA will not consider you disabled.
There is a minimum amount of earnings that indicate that work is SGA, and this minimum changes each year. For 2018, it is $1,180 per month if you are not blind and $1,970 per month if you are blind. If you are working and your earnings average more than the SGA limit, then you will not be found disabled. But if you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your depression and any other physical or mental conditions are evaluated.
Step 2. Is your medical condition “severe”?
By SSA standards,you are disabled if your medical condition significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities such as sitting; standing; walking; lifting; carrying; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; making simple work-related decisions; responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work stress; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.
Further, to be found disabled, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and has lasted or is expected last one (1) year or end in death. If your medical condition is not that severe, you will not be found to meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits. If your condition is that severe, you can proceed to Step 3 of the evaluation.
Step 3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a Listing?
The SSA has a list of medical criteria to objectively determine which medical impairments are so severe that they constitute disability. The Adult Listing for depressive disorders can be found here.
If you do not have an impairment that meets or equals one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA looks into your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Your RFC is what you are capable of doing despite your impairments. The SSA will then conduct a function-by-function assessment of what you can still do on a regular, continuing basis (full-time work), and this process proceeds to Step 4.
Step 4. Can you do any of the jobs you have performed in the past fifteen (15) years?
Here, the SSA decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to work full-time at jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years. If they find that you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), they will not consider you disabled. To be PRW, the work must have been substantial gainful activity(SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough to learn the job. If SSA sees that you cannot perform your past relevant work, or that you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, your evaluation goes on to Step 5.
Still here at Step 4, you have the “burden of proof” or the responsibility to present evidence. Two of the strongest types of evidence at this stage are medical records and the opinions of the doctors who are treating you for the conditions that are affecting your ability to work.
In terms of medical evidence, the strongest type is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors. Meanwhile, in terms of medical opinion, the strongest are opinions that are offered by doctors who specialize in your condition and are supported by objective medical evidence.
Here are some types of objective medical evidence that can support a claim for disability based upon depression:
- Documentation of medical history
- Records of mental status examination or psychological testing
- Records of hospitalizations and treatment
- Laboratory findings
- Medical documentation showing a depressive disorder with five or more symptoms
- Medical documentation of limited mental functioning
- Medical documentation of the persistence of the disorder.
Doctors and professionals who specialize in treating depression include:
- Psychiatrists – licensed medical doctors who can both prescribe medication and offer psychotherapy
- Psychologists – doctors whose main focus is psychotherapy or talk therapy
- Social workers, therapists, and counselors – non-doctor but trained professionals who provide talk therapy.
A primary care doctor or your family doctor may likely not be able to address depression completely. If you opt to just consult with them instead of a specialist, the SSA may see this as a sign that your condition is not that serious. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of specialized treatment (even if you don’t have health insurance).
Step 5. Can you do any other type of work?
Here at Step 5, the “burden of proof” is on the SSA. If you can no longer perform your past relevant work, the SSA looks to see if you would be able to do other work. They evaluates your medical condition, your age,education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work.
If you can do other work, the SSA will determine that you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.
Another consideration is that after age 50, there are special rules that may apply to your claim that can result in a disability finding even if you can do other full-time work.An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be familiar with these rules and can ensure that they are considered in your application.
Getting evaluated for depression-based disability can be highly challenging, especially because depressive disorders are often dismissed by as simple mood swings. But if you are suffering from this condition, you know that it is a heavy burden to bear and that it truly upsets your work and your life.
Contact Gillette Law Group
For your depression disability claim, it is crucial to build a solid case. We at Gillette Law Group can help you do this, as we have helped numerous claimants like you succeed in their application. This is a result of our years-long experience in the field and our in-depth training focused on Social Security disabilities.
Please do not hesitate to contact us, as your consultation with us is free. Talk to us today at (855) 873-2604.