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Depression

Proving a Depression Case for Social Security Disability

It is estimated that 19 million American adults are living with Major Depressive Disorder. Symptoms are sometimes so intense that they preclude the individual from working. When depression becomes this severe, and it causes an inability to work for 12 months or longer, one option is to apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

However, due to the current wait time for benefits and the large numbers of cases being turned down, it is important to understand what it takes to prove that the depression is a disabling condition.

Social Security requires that the individual’s depression be symptomatic. For some people, the symptoms of depression are minimal and they are able to adequately function and work despite their diagnosis. However, for others, the symptoms are numerous and extreme, preventing the person from holding down a job. In order to understand the level of severity required to win a Social Security Disability case, it is important to understand the criteria that the Administration uses in their determination process. Social Security evaluates the level of deficit an individual exhibits in their activities of daily living, their social functioning, their concentration, persistence and pace. An individual who has a hard time getting along with others, finds it difficult to take care of their personal hygiene, and has a hard time focusing on even simple tasks may meet the criteria for severe, disabling depression. Social Security Rulings 85-15 and SSR 96-9p both describe how an inability to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions, make simple work-related decisions, respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers, usual work situations and to deal with changes in a routine work setting would preclude an individual from gainful employment. However, it is not enough just to express this level of impairment. The limitations must be documented in the medical records by the individual’s doctor and/or therapist.

The most important aspect of proving a Social Security Disability case for depression is consistent treatment records. An individual alleging disability due to depression must be receiving ongoing mental health therapy and/or medication management. Seeing the mental health provider at least once a month, and reporting all symptoms is vital to the case. The individual must also be compliant with all medication regiments and abstain from any drug or alcohol use.

Lastly, getting an experienced Social Security attorney early in application process can help organize the case and improve chances of winning.

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