One of the most frequently diagnosed mental health conditions, depression can often be successfully treated with holistic remedies, medications and/or counseling. Sometimes, though, depression can become a severe, chronic mental illness. At that point, it can be a significant factor in a Social Security disability application.
Social Security is rarely interested in the cause of depression. Sometimes the depression is long standing and other times depression is secondary to life changes due to chronic illness or other trauma. Often depression symptoms are part of another mental illness such as bipolar disorder. While causation is not a major concern, the proof of the symptoms and how those symptoms impact a claimant’s ability to function, is the focus of many Social Security disability applications.
Social Security’s Listings of Impairments detail how different conditions are evaluated for disability purposes. Section 12.04, Affective Disorders, includes Depression, Manic Syndrome and Bipolar Syndrome diagnoses. Like most of the Listings, the focus is first on proving the symptoms leading to the diagnosis – that is usually not difficult. Second, and where the fight is generally focused, is proving the severity of those symptoms and how they impact someone’s functional abilities to sustain work activity.
As in most cases the issue comes down to “proof” of the severity of those symptoms. Once again we must turn to the clinical charts of the treating psychiatrist and psychologist – the appropriate medical specialists. Since many psychiatrists are limited to “medication management” claimants should also be in treatment with a good therapist or counselor. Experience shows that therapists often provide much more detail about day-to-day functional problems than most psychiatrists and become an important source of supplemental proof.
The key is to remind clients that each visit should include a complete description of daily limitations and frustrations. The greater the detail, the stronger the evidence. If you have a client suffering from debilitating depression, call our office. We can help.