March 29, 2017

Depression and Social Security Disability

Social Security will approve your disability claim arising from depression, anxiety and similar mental health conditions but you will need compelling evidence to prevail.

Because depression cannot be measured using test like MRIs or CT scans, judges must rely on treatment notes from your psychologist, psychiatrist or other therapists. Judges will also rely on reports from the Social Security consultative examiner – typically a psychologist who sees you one time on referral from SSA.

The issue in your case usually boils down to this: do your symptoms and medication side effects leave you unable to reliably perform a simple, entry-level job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, on-going?

Compelling Evidence Required in Mental Health Cases

Because a level of depression exists among almost every disability applicant, judges are looking for more than a mild level of symptoms. Understand that every day, judges see disability claimants who are physically uncomfortable, financially strapped, who feel helpless because they cannot work.

Most of the time if a judge is going to approve your case, he/she will expect to see at least some of the following:

  • a long history of your struggles with depression
  • where applicable, evidence of a trauma that contributed to your depression (such as a sexual or physical assault, the loss of a loved one, a narrow escape from death)
  • compliance with all recommended treatment (medications, therapy)
  • no improvement in symptoms despite compliance with treatment
  • multiple in-patient hospitalizations
  • suicide attempts
  • evidence in the form of medical reports, and statements from family or former co-workers that you have significant trouble with activities of daily living and reliability
  • evidence of a long work history but increasing difficulty at your last few jobs with attendance, performance and interaction with co-workers or the public
  • claimants age 50 and older will generally have an easier time when applying for disability benefits based on mental health limitations

Your medical record does not need to contain every one of these elements, but you will need to demonstrate that your depression is severe, not especially responsive to treatment and extremely limiting to your functioning. If you come to court with treatment notes and a prescription or two for anti-depressants from your family doctor, you are most likely not going to win.

If your struggles with severe depression make it impossible for you to reliably perform even a simple type of job, we’d be happy to speak with you. Just use case evaluation form on this page and an experienced disability attorney will contact you.