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Can I receive SSD benefits for clinical depression?


Major depression is among the most prevalent mental health disorders in America, according to the National Institutes of Health. Depression also causes disablement more frequently than any other behavioral or mental illness, according to the World Health Organization. People afflicted with clinical depression may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, as any SSD attorney in Tennessee knows. However, given the nature of depression, adequately documenting claims involving this disorder may be difficult.

Evaluating depression

Depression appears in the Social Security Administration's "Blue Book" of disabling conditions. People who suffer from conditions listed in the Blue Book may automatically qualify for benefits on a medical level. However, they must meet specific criteria outlined in the book.

People seeking SSD benefits for depressive disorders must document at least four accepted symptoms. These include suicidal thoughts, sleep disturbances, difficulty focusing, low energy and loss of interest in regular activities. Additionally, claimants must show that, due to depression, they experience two of the following limitations:

  • Challenges performing tasks requiring sustained effort or focus
  • Difficulty acting appropriately in social settings
  • Limited ability to perform basic daily activities
  • Escalating episodes in which symptoms worsen or maintaining regular functioning becomes difficult

People who have suffered from depression for over two years may meet an alternate set of Blue Book requirements. Under these criteria, individuals may qualify for benefits by documenting worsening episodes of decompensation. Otherwise, individuals can prove that they require a supportive living arrangement or minimal environmental changes to continue functioning independently.

As an SSD attorney in Tennessee can explain, people who do not meet Blue Book criteria may still receive benefits. The SSA may award a medical-vocational allowance if functional limitations associated with depression preclude gainful employment. The SSA may consider various limitations, including memory problems, reduced decision-making ability and difficulty handling social interaction.

Supporting the claim

Since depression is not a readily apparent or consistently disabling condition, claimants must provide extensive medical documentation of depression. Claimants should obtain a diagnosis from a psychiatrist and establish a mental health history by seeking regular treatment. A treatment record can help show that the disorder is persistent and not reasonably manageable through treatment.

The SSA does not award benefits if a condition can be effectively treated through medication or other measures. Furthermore, as any SSD attorney in Tennessee understands, claimants who don't follow prescribed treatments are unlikely to receive benefits. Therefore, creating a strong treatment record is essential.

Claimants also should document all of the symptoms and limitations they experience due to depression. A treating physician can give a statement that establishes the existence and extent of these symptoms. Claimants can also provide personal descriptions and statements from non-medical sources to illustrate the limitations they face.

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