Many people who suffer from chronic depression know that it can be a debilitating condition that can prevent you from holding on to a job or even performing everyday activities and maintaining personal relationships. It is possible for individuals to collect disability benefits for both physical and mental ailments. However, it can be more challenging to collect these benefits for a mental illness such as depression. That’s because symptoms of a mental illness can be more challenging to evaluate and it may be more difficult to evaluate the severity of a mental condition.
Challenges for the Mentally Ill
The challenges multiply for those seeking these benefits because disability claims examiners who work for the Social Security Administration are often not licensed psychiatrists. They are neither qualified nor in a position to understand the full scope of challenges or limitations posed by certain mental illnesses. For example, some disability examiners don’t understand that the onset of mental illnesses could occur at any time and that symptoms could return.
In addition, some of these examiners may have an inherent bias against disability claims for mental illness and simply assume that disability applicants who claim mental illness are lazy or faking their illness for the sake of benefits. This is indeed unfortunate because one in four Americans suffers from mental illness in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Depression is the leading cause of disability when it comes to nonfatal medical conditions in the United States. Depression is basically a mood disorder, which causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It is a condition that can affect how you feel, think and behave. It could also lead to a variety of other emotional and physical problems. Those who are depressed may have trouble performing normal day-to-day activities and may even have suicidal tendencies. Depression often requires long-term treatment. It could be caused by biological or genetic factors. Sometimes, stress and other environmental factors could also cause depression.
Some of the common symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry, emotional outbursts or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest in hobbies, sports or sex
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleeping too much
- Lack of energy or exhaustion
- Changes in appetite. Some may lose appetite and weight while others may have increased cravings and experience weight gain
- Anxiety or agitation
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Inability to get out of bed
- Trouble thinking, focusing, making decisions and remembering thinks
- Unexplained physical problems such as headaches or back pain
- Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
Qualifying for Disability Benefits
In order to qualify for disability benefits, a person who has been afflicted with depression must meet the criteria for disability that are spelled out in Social Security’s impairment listing manual. The individual can also be granted a medical-vocational allowance based on the severity of their depression and a combination of other factors such as work history, age, education level and other impairments.
Depression is listed under “affective disorders” in Social Security’s impairment listing manual. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits for depression, applicants must show that they have severe depression by showing that they have at least four major symptoms of depression. Also, Social Security requires that these symptoms cause you serious difficulty with everyday activities, social functioning, concentrating/focusing or repeated extended periods of worsening symptoms. For example, if you have a depression diagnosis and have trouble getting along with co-workers and are unable to focus on completing simple tasks, you may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability under the disability listing for depression.
If you have experienced depression over a period or time and your condition has improved due to medication, you may still be able to qualify for benefits if your recovery is deemed tentative and if you could experience a setback if you change up your routine or return to work. Your symptoms should either be recorded regularly by a psychiatrist or you may want to track your condition by using a self-rated depression scale.
A Medical-Vocational Allowance
There are other ways in which applicants may be able to receive approval for benefits. Instead of meeting the requirements of the depression listing, applicants can be approved by being granted what is known as a “medical-vocational allowance.” In fact, this is how a majority of disability claims receive approval. In order to qualify applicants must understand how their depression symptoms affect their ability to do unskilled work that requires them to do things like understand and perform simple tasks, make work-related decisions that are simple, respond and interact appropriately to co-workers and supervisors and handle change in routine.
If Social Security makes a determination that the limitations caused by your depression makes it difficult for you perform simple, unskilled work, you may be able to receive disability benefits. You can also get benefits if you have the mental capacity to perform such work but have a physical impairment that prevents you from doing certain tasks.
How an Attorney Can Help
If your application for benefits has been denied and you feel your case is strong enough to win an appeal, it would be in your best interest to retain the services of an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer who can help represent you during a hearing. Those who are represented by an attorney in such cases do have a better rate of getting their applications approved compared to those who are not represented by a lawyer or represent themselves.
If you are disabled and cannot work because of depression, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits. However, there are a number of requirements and criteria to meet, which can be complicated, confusing and intimidating. An experienced Social Security Disability lawyer in Arizona can help guide you through what can be a complex process and assist you with not just the filing process, but also the appeal if necessary. A knowledgeable lawyer will also be able to work closely with medical professionals to collect and present the appropriate documentary evidence that is required to ensure that your depression disability claim has a favorable outcome.