Depression and Qualifying for Social Security Disability
Can I qualify for disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of depression?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 16 million Americans are living with depression. Everyone feels sad from time to time, but
depression that lasts more than two weeks and is severe enough to disrupt daily activities is a sign of a serious mood disorder. Depression affects people from all walks of life; it is not an indication of weakness or a negative personality.
Although 9% of Americans report that they are depressed at least occasionally, to be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.
Common symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or failure
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Insomnia or sleeping excessively
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or weight gain
- Physical aches and pains such as headaches or digestive problems that do not subside with treatment
- Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, such as a hobby or social activity
In children and young adults, depression may be characterized by irritability or feelings of being misunderstood, as well as poor school attendance or performance.
Older adults may exhibit personality changes or memory problems. Some people with depression may exhibit aggressive behavior towards others or even talk about death or suicide. In these situations, depression becomes life threatening and it’s important to seek help immediately.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Depression. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
There are several types of depression:
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia). A depressed mood that lasts for a minimum of two years and characterized by periods of major depression and periods of less severe symptoms.
- Psychotic depression. Depression connected to some type of psychosis, such as hallucinations or delusions.
- Postpartum depression. Severe depression experienced by women during pregnancy or after the birth of child where sadness, anxiety and exhaustion make it difficult to care for the baby or themselves.
- Seasonal affective disorder. Depression that occurs each winter and disappears in spring. It is connected to the loss of natural light in winter and characterized by increased sleep, social withdrawal, and weight gain.
- Bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is considered a type of depression but differs from other depression in that individuals experience periods of euphoria as well as periods of deep depression.
Depression can be caused by a variety of physical and emotional factors.
Though scientists are unsure of how changes in brain function are linked to depression, researchers have noted differences in the brains of people who are depressed. The hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores memory, is smaller in some people with depression and has fewer serotonin receptors. Serotonin is the chemical in the brain that is involved in how emotions are processed, affecting overall mood.
Other causes of depression include:
- Loss of a loved one, a move, loss of a job
- Depression during a chronic illness
- Hormone imbalance
- Family history of depression
- Abuse – past physical, emotional or sexual
- Certain medications such as isotretinoin for acne or corticosteroids
- Conflict with family, friends or co-workers
- Major events such as a new job, graduating or retiring
- Serious illness
- Major events such as graduating, starting a new job, or retiring.
- Substance abuse (30% of people with substance abuse are depressed).
Even though depression is a complex disorder, it is treatable.
Therapy focuses on developing social skills and healthy relationships as well as problem solving and changing behaviors. Various medications can reduce symptoms, but are most effective when used in combination with therapy. Some anti-depressants have more side effects than others and 30-40% of patients have only a partial response to drugs. Popular medications include Elavil, Pamelor, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. As an alternative, some individuals may use herbal supplements such as Curicin (the primary ingredient in the spice turmeric), saffron, or SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine – a compound found naturally in the body the helps produce and regulate hormones and maintain cell membranes).
There are also several steps an individual can take on their own to relieve depression;
- Get into a routine. Having a set schedule reduces stress.
- Set daily goals. Completing a set task will give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get enough sleep.
- Take on responsibility. Getting involved in a project will counteract depression. Volunteer or do part-time work.
- Try something new. Take a class, visit a museum, volunteer.
- Make time for things you enjoy. Not wanting to do anything is a symptom of depression.
Depression is recognized by Social Security as an impairment under listing 12.04, Depressive, Bipolar and Related.
Note that the listing includes symptoms and functional problems you must meet in order to qualify for SSDI.
12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders (see 12.00B3), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:
A. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1 or 2:
- Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the following:
- Depressed mood;
- Diminished interest in almost all activities;
- Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
- Sleep disturbance;
- Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
- Decreased energy;
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- Bipolar disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:
- Pressured speech;
- Flight of ideas;
- Inflated self-esteem;
- Decreased need for sleep;
- Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
- Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.
B. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
- Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
- Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
- Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
- Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).
C. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).
Unless your depression is severe and disabling, it may be very difficult to obtain approval for SSDI if depression is the only impairment listed on your application.
However, if you have a physical impairment or another mental impairment in addition to depression, you will have a better chance of being approved for benefits.
If you have been diagnosed with depression and it has affected your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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