Depression is one of the top leading reasons people seek disability benefits. Depression is a broad term that refers to many different conditions, including persistent depression disorder, dysthymia, and major depression. Whatever its form, depression is defined as a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness, inadequacy, hopelessness, and gloom. In addition to these feelings, people with depression often suffer from reduced energy levels and feelings of extreme fatigue. It is not uncommon for people that suffer from depression to also experience anhedonia, which is a loss of interest in the activities and things they once found rewarding.
The symptoms of depression typically make it very difficult for a person to work. It is for this reason that depression is the second most commonly cited condition on applications for Social Security disability benefits. Fortunately, you can claim disability benefits for depression. Here’s what you need to know.
The experienced social security disability lawyers at Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC can help to simplify the application process and be your guide during this difficult time in your life. Call us to discuss your situation. We look forward to hearing from you!
Why is Depression So Debilitating?
Most people have suffered from depression at one point or another, whether it was because they lost a loved one, or went through a traumatic experience such as divorce. These bouts of depression are normal after going through an emotionally painful situation and they usually do not require disability benefits.
However, when a person suffers from episodes of depression for more than two weeks, and they have severe daily symptoms, this is often considered major clinical depression. Major clinical depression limits a person’s ability to cope with their daily commitments and stresses. This results in an individual that cannot function in their daily life, which includes family and work activities.
Depression is caused by many different factors. Many people suffer from depression due to their genetics, and it is very commonly seen in members of the same family. Environmental factors also play a role in causing depression.
How to Obtain Disability Benefits for Depression
Anyone that wishes to qualify for disability benefits must meet the specific criteria outlined in Social Security’s impairment listing. Individuals that do not meet those criteria can still qualify for disability benefits if they are given a medical-vocational allowance due to the severity of their depression, as well as other factors, such as their age, work history, and educational level.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has published a list of common, serious illnesses that may qualify for disability benefits if the individual applying meets other specific requirements. The SSA publishes this list so that disability benefits are granted quickly for individuals suffering from severe impairments. Depression is listed within this list of impairments in Section 12.04, Depressive, Bipolar, and Related. Within the listing, a number of symptoms and functional issues are listed that a person must have before they can get disability benefits for depression.
The first step in determining whether you can claim compensation for depression is to determine you have any of the qualifying symptoms. To receive benefits, you must have a minimum of five of the below symptoms:
- A lack of interest in almost all activities
- Depressed mood
- A sudden change in appetite, whether it is overeating or a lack of appetite
- Sleep issues, such as oversleeping or insomnia
- Concentration issues
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Slowed reactions, including hand wringing, pacing, speech, or increased physical agitation
- Thoughts of suicide or death
The above are symptoms of depression, but to qualify for disability benefits, you must meet certain criteria pertaining to the lack of function. Typically, you must be extremely limited in at least one of the following situations, or have a marked limitation in a minimum of two of the following situations:
- Applying, remembering, or understanding information, such as a lack of ability to learn new things, understand instructions, use judgment when making decisions, or apply new knowledge to tasks
- When interacting with other people, such as a lack of ability to use behaviors that are socially appropriate
- Managing or adapting yourself, such as when shopping, cooking, dressing, and practicing good hygiene
It is important to note that a marked limitation means it is extremely limiting. An extreme limitation is not a complete loss of a certain ability, but it is a worse condition than marked. An SSA psychologist or psychiatrist will use their professional judgment when determining whether a condition is marked or extreme.
Second Set of Functional Requirements
Individuals that cannot prove they are currently experiencing functional limitations due to the fact that they have been undergoing intense therapy, or because they were being protected, may still be able to obtain disability benefits by meeting a second set of functional requirements. If your condition has been medically documented as serious and persistent for a period of at least two years, and you can show that you have received significant medical treatment, psychological support, or mental health therapy that reduces the symptoms of your depression, you may still be able to receive benefits.
When claiming benefits, you must also prove that you do not have the mental capacity to adapt to new demands or changes in your environment that are not already part of your everyday life.
The second set of functional requirements was put in place to recognize that some people may suffer severely from depression, but they are getting the necessary help that minimizes their symptoms. Still, the condition must be marginal, which means that the individual would not be able to perform work if they were put into an employment environment. Sometimes, applicants meet these requirements by trying to return to work only to find that it is not a possibility for them.
Get Legal Help Today
If you need to apply for disability benefits due to a condition related to depression, do not apply on your own. At the Law Office of Jerome Salmi Kopis, LLC, our disability attorneys in Illinois and Missouri can advise on the requirements you must meet, and give you the best chance of claiming disability benefits for depression.
Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation and to learn more about how we can help with your case.