What is Depression?

Many people experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness during emotionally painful or stressful situations (i.e. death of a loved one or divorce). These feelings are typically situational and short-lived. But, some people experience long-term clinical depression.

Clinical depression is a mental disorder which affects a person’s moods. It can cause a sufferer to feel ongoing deep sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness. Clinical depression can interfere with a person’s ability to manage the obligations of daily life. A person with clinical depression may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in activities (physical and social)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns (sleeping excessively or insomnia)
  • Constant fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and deciding
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Diffused anxiety
  • Thoughts of suicide

Biological, genetic, and environmental factors can cause depression. Clinical depression is often treated by the use of psychotherapy and antidepressant medications.

SSDI and Depression

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a 5 step process to determine a claimant’s eligibility for disability benefits. Those seeking disability benefits for depression will go through the following process:

1. Determine if the claimant is working at or above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as defined by the SSA in the year they file. The SGA level for 2019 is a monthly income of $1220.

2. Determine if the claimant’s difficulties from depression significantly limit their ability to perform basic work activities such as:

  • sitting
  • standing
  • reaching
  • pulling or pushing
  • lifting or carrying
  • simple cognitive reasoning

3. Determine if the claimant’s severity of depression meet the criteria outlined in the SSA’s impairments list.

To qualify for disability benefits for depression, the SSA first requires your depression to be characterized by at least four of the following:

  • decreased energy
  • difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • difficulty doing routine physical activities
  • loss of interest in most activities
  • loss or increase in appetite weight loss or gain
  • disturbance of sleep pattern (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • paranoia, delusions or hallucinations
  • suicidal thoughts

The SSA then requires that your depression causes at least two of the four following issues:

  • severe restriction of activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • severe difficulties in maintaining social functioning
  • severe difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, or
  • repeated, extended episodes of decompensation (worsening symptoms)

You could qualify without meeting the above requirements if your depression is shown to improve with medical and psychological treatment, but could regress if having to return to work. To qualify under this alternative, you must have medical documentation showing that your depression has lasted at least two years and significantly limited your ability to perform basic work activities and showing one of the following:

  • repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration
  • the risk that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in your environment is predicted to cause you to decompensate, or
  • inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement for at least the past 12 months and this need is likely to continue.

The impairment listing for depression says a claimant must have medical proof of one or more of the following:

4. Determine if the claimant can still do any work they may have done in the past despite the problems caused by their depression.

5. Determine if the claimant can do any other work based on their:

  • age
  • education
  • prior work experience
  • mental and physical capabilities

Getting Help with Your Disability Claim for Depression

If you have been diagnosed with depression and it is affecting your ability to work, you could be eligible for SSDI benefits. But, the approval process approval can be complicated. The SSA requires detailed evidence of how depression affects your life and the ability to work before considering approval for disability benefits.

Help from an experienced disability attorney can make a big difference in the possibility of you receiving SSDI benefits. An attorney will know how to help you gather the evidence you need to prove how your depression affects your ability to work and present it to the SSA.

Brock & Stout has over 20 years of experience helping clients get the benefits they need. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your medical situation. Let our family help you and your family get the help you need