Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Depression?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with depression to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your depression doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of depression are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with depression. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing, or
- Proving that your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent sense of sadness and loss of interest in life. It can affect how you feel about yourself and others, how you think and even how you behave. It is not uncommon to see depression in those who have pain.
What Are The Symptoms of Depression?
People who are depressed may have:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness,
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness,
- Loss of interest in daily activities,
- Loss of pleasure in daily activities,
- Frustration, irritability and difficulty controlling their anger,
- Sleep disturbances,
- Lack of energy,
- Changes in appetite,
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking, remembering things or making decisions,
- Anxiety, and
- Frequent thoughts of suicide or death.
When Your Depression Meets A Listing
Depression is included in Listing 12.04 Affective Disorders in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing for your depression to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records for evidence that you have severe depression by having at least four of the following symptoms:
- Lack of interest or pleasure in most activities,
- Decreased energy,
- Poor appetite or overeating,
- Insomnia or oversleeping,
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking,
- Lack of physical movement,
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt,
- Paranoia, delusions or hallucinations, or
- Suicidal thoughts.
Also, your symptoms of depression cause you serious difficulty in the following:
- Daily life,
- Proper social function,
- Concentrating, persisting in a task or functioning at an appropriate pace, or
- Having continual, long periods of decompensation.
It can be difficult to get the medical proof you need. Those with depression often get treatment at mental health clinics. Mental health clinics often refuse to release your clinical notes that the SSA uses to evaluate the severity of your condition. Instead, the clinic will offer a letter summarizing what they think SSA wants to know. That is not helpful.
Others with depression disorders are treated at the VA. While the VA records do have some detail about your symptoms, VA doctors refuse to fill out any RFC forms.
Many times your medical records don’t include the necessary detail to establish that your depression is disabling enough to meet or equal a listing.
As a result, SSA is forced to have you undergo, at their expense, a consultative mental status examination. This is a one-time short examination by a consultant who doesn’t know you and who won’t take the time to develop the details about how your depression impacts your ability to function on a daily basis.
If possible, have your family or friends provide your treating provider and any consultative examiner with detailed information about what you can and can’t do. Unfortunately, because of these medical proof problems, many claims are denied at a Listing level.
Don’t worry! SSA then will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your Depression Makes It Impossible to Work
If your depression doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately the Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your depression.
Residual Functional Capacity For Depression
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant with depression still can work because there isn’t a significant interference with your ability to do normal activity. For example, if you are anxious but can still shower, get dressed, make meals, go grocery shopping and interact with the public, you are probably not eligible for benefits. There must be a marked interference with your ability to function.
The more limited you are in your ability to function on a daily basis the lower your RFC will be and the more likely that you can’t return to work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or mental health providers about the existence of RFC forms for each of the anxiety disorders and the importance of properly completed RFC forms that explain the severity of your symptoms and impact on:
- Your activities of daily living, including cleaning, shopping, cooking, using public transportation, paying bills, maintaining your home, caring for yourself, using the phone and the post office,
- Social functioning, including your ability to interact independently, appropriately, effectively on a sustained basis with family, friends and the public,
- Concentration, persistence and pace that allows you to have focused attention and concentration long enough to timely and appropriately finish tasks in the work setting,
- Your ability to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions,
- Your ability to make simple work-related decisions,
- Your ability to respond appropriately to supervision and to co-workers, and
- Your ability to handle changes in routine.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on anxiety disorder RFC forms. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Winning a case on the basis of severe depression alone is hard. I’s more likely that you will be awarded benefits if you have psychiatric or physical medical conditions.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form, or because it wasn’t signed by the supervising physician. Those are just some of the reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your mental RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the least demanding job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve For Depression?
Depression can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- File your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you and any friends or family members who will be testifying on your behalf for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
Depression can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits for depression. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.