Does depression qualify for social security disability benefits?

The short answer is yes. Depression is a condition that qualifies for Social Security Disability Benefits. The real issue is whether or not the depressed individual can work. And if so, how much work he or she can do and under what conditions he or she might be able to perform that work.

In sum: claims examiners focus first on the ability of the affected individual to work, not the cause of the disability.

Severe depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD)  can be extremely debilitating. Some medical studies have shown that antidepressants may make depression worse in a subset of bipolar individuals, according to Medical News Today. Depressed patients with psychotic-like symptoms also respond “less well” to treatments. But proving that depression is debilitating enough to prevent any “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), can be daunting because there is no simple measure for depression.

Since that is the case, an individual who is applying for SSDI or SSI payments due to depression would do well to be represented by an SSDI lawyer when filing an initial claim or  appealing a denial.

Medical records in these cases are crucial. An individual with an established  history of medical treatment for depression may fare well in the claims process  - that is, a person whose medical records can document his or her illness. Those who need what’s called a “consultative examination,” because they do not have such records, may not.

In the latter case, the claimant is at a disadvantage. Consultative exams are performed by doctors who are paid by the Social Security Administration. That, in and of itself, does not prejudice the physician’s evaluation.

However, in these cases, the doctor is usually seeing the depressed individual for the first time. When conducting this one-time examination, the doctor may not be able to determine definitively the level of depression the person is experiencing, or how long the person will be depressed.

In cases in which an examiner finds a person sufficiently depressed to award SSDI or SSI benefits, “definable symptoms must be medically documented to be either continuous or intermittent.” With that medical determination in hand. the claims examiner will turn to the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability:

  • You cannot do work you did before
  • You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s)
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.

The Social Security Administration also considers income and age before awarding payments to a disabled individual. Those past retirement age are not eligible for disability payments although they can qualify for retirement benefits if they have worked and paid social security taxes.

People whose income and assets fall below levels set by the Social Security Adminis

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