Clients sometimes approach our Winston-Salem Social Security disability lawyerabout their possible eligibility for SSD or Supplemental Security Income benefits for depression and bipolar disorder. People commonly claim to suffer from these conditions when seeking SSD or SSI benefits. The following overview offers additional information about applying for SSD benefits with these conditions.
DEFINING DEPRESSION AND BIPOLAR DISORDER
Depression causes various symptoms, including the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of energy
- Suicidal thoughts
Someone with bipolar disorder may struggle with these but might also exhibit manic behavior and rapid speech. While depression and bipolar disorder might be a cause for awarding disability benefits, you will need to prove that your depression keeps you from working. The Social Security Administration will review several aspects of a claim before approving your SSD application.
HOW LONG THE DEPRESSION HAS LASTED
Your disability, including depression, must last for a minimum of one year at a level that would prevent you from working. If you visit the doctor on a certain day and report that you are “doing better,” the SSA could use that information against you and deny your benefits. You will want to justify your case before an administrative law judge and tell him or her exactly how often you have bad days. While you do not need to be depressed every single day, you need to show that your affliction keeps you from maintaining gainful employment.
Your doctor will need to provide a statement about the severity of your depression. For example, if you will miss one or two days of work each week because of depression, your doctor needs to explain that. The SSA has a mental status exam form that your physician can include with his or her records. If you provide documentation from a licensed therapist or social worker, the SSA does not need to take those opinions as seriously. You can address this problem by continuing to meet with these professionals in order to show that you are receiving ongoing treatment. The SSA is unlikely to deny a therapist’s opinion if you have been seeing him or her for a long time regarding your mental health, especially if the therapist thoroughly documents your condition. If you cannot pay to see a doctor, you can request a consultation with a psychologist, which can then be used as a more formal report for the SSA. Our Winston-Salem Social Security disability lawyer can help you with this process as well.
TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION
The SSA will want to know if you are taking any prescription medications for your depression and if the medication is effective. If you are not taking medications, the agency will likely consider your case mild instead of disabling. Even worse, if your physician has prescribed medications or therapy and you fail to comply, the SSA might reject your claim because you have not followed your doctor’s orders. However, the SSA might consider limited funds as a valid reason to not comply.
DEPENDENCY ON ALCOHOL OR DRUGS
Alcohol or drug dependency might be a major hindrance to winning a disability claim for a mental impairment. The doctor or psychologist might determine that you have caused your own symptoms because of your substance abuse. You will then bear the responsibility of proving that the depression is a serious disability apart from any substance abuse. A medical professional can submit a report that states that your depression is not caused by your alcohol or drug use. In addition, if you a history of any sobriety, medical records can show that you are still suffering with depression or bipolar despite your sobriety. Our Winston-Salem Social Security disability lawyer can provide you with specific details on possible strategies to win a case if you have a history of substance abuse.
DISABILITY LISTING FOR MENTAL IMPAIRMENTS
The SSA classifies official disability listings under Affective Disorders; if you meet the criteria, they will award you benefits for depression or bipolar disorder. Notes from your medical file, psychological tests, hospitalization reports and mental status evaluations can all be classified as documentation in your case. The listing for bipolar disorder includes a minimum of two of the following conditions:
- A marked decrease in the ability to perform daily tasks necessary for life,
- A marked decrease in the ability to connect with others or a
- Marked decrease in the ability to focus at work and complete the job in a timely manner.
For example, if you cannot focus or follow basic instructions, if brief interactions with others prove stressful, if you are easily distracted at work and if you cannot deal with routine changes, then you would likely meet the listing and be eligible for benefits.
RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY AND YOUR ABILITY TO WORK
If you do meet the criteria for an official disability listing, the SSA will still review your condition and how your impairment prevents you from doing your job. The SSA writes up your residual functional capacity. The RFC describes what jobs you can do at work, how you communicate and connect with others, your ability to sit or stand or move, and if you are a dependable employee. For example, if you have bipolar disorder with moderate impairment in social interaction due to mood swings and some difficulty concentrating, the SSA might write up the following RFC:
- You have zero limitations in sitting, standing or walking
- You cannot work with others and
- You are limited to basic two-step directions.
The RFC would not prevent you from working completely, but you would be able to perform other basic jobs that do not involve working with others. However, if your ability to function socially was significantly affected or if you were unable to concentrate or remember the most basic directions, the SSA might rule that you are disabled. Our Winston-Salem Social Security disability lawyer can provide you with a more thorough understanding of RFC and how it works.
Contact Our Winston-Salem Social Security Disability Lawyer
If you have questions about either condition, call our Winston-Salem Social Security disability lawyer at our Bridgman Law Offices at (704) 815-6055.