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Your #Depression Can Qualify For #Disability #Benefits

Recently, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) changed the definition of Depression as a disability that qualifies an individual for disability benefits. Millions of people suffer from Depression, yet they still manage to go to work and function in their activities of daily living.  Many people are diagnosed with Depression or even Bipolar Disorder, yet their symptoms are controlled with medication and they are able to work.  When depressive symptoms become so severe that an individual cannot work or function in daily life, then they have a disability that qualifies for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

The SSA divides the symptoms of Depression into three categories in order to analyze the severity of an individual’s symptoms.  First, after a diagnosis of Depression or Bipolar Disorder, the SSA looks at your medical records to determine if you have five or more the symptoms listed below.
12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders (see 12.00B3), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

  1. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1 or 2:
    1. Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the following:
      1. Depressed mood;
      2. Diminished interest in almost all activities;
      3. Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
      4. Sleep disturbance;
      5. Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
      6. Decreased energy;
      7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
      8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
      9. Thoughts of death or suicide.
    2. Bipolar disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:
      1. Pressured speech;
      2. Flight of ideas;
      3. Inflated self-esteem;
      4. Decreased need for sleep;
      5. Distractibility;
      6. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
      7. Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.

Next, the SSA determines how the symptoms of depression impact you in your ability to function in the workplace and in your daily activities by looking at the Part B and Part C criteria, which are listed below.


  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
    2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
    4. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and

2.   Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or     to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).

The Part B criteria or the severity of your symptoms should be supported by treatment records from a psychologist or psychiatrist.  This is also true of documenting the Part C criteria for a Judge at the hearing level of your case or for Disability Determination Services at the appeal levels of your case.  If you are only being treated with medication, it is very important that you seek out the help of a counselor with proper credentials to support your disability claim.  The SSA considers a psychologist and psychiatrist to be the best sources of evidence about Depression.  However, they also consider medical evidence provided by Nurse Practitioners, counselors, and therapists.  Most importantly, having an ongoing relationship with your doctor, nurse, and/or therapist will help you win your case. A Psychological Evaluation is not given as much weight by the Judge as evidence from a treating source who sees you on a weekly or monthly basis over an extended period of time.  If you do not have insurance or money to see a treating source, we have provided a list of free and low-cost services on our website.  Remember, without medical evidence, you will not be able to win your claim for disability benefits. If you have any questions about whether your Depression qualifies you for disability benefits, do not hesitate to contact us. The best thing you can do to help yourself throughout the disability process, and to help your mental health, is to obtain ongoing mental health treatment for your Depression.

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