The Social Security Administration recently changed the disability criteria for depression cases. Listed Impairment 12.04 for Depressive, bipolar and related disorders states that, in order to be found disabled due to a depressive disorder, there must be medical evidence of five or more of the following findings:
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
In addition to meeting five or more of the above-findings, there must also be medical evidence of an extreme limitation in one, or marked limitation in two of the following categories of mental functioning:
1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information (such as following instructions, memory loss, low IQ, etc.)
2. Interacting with others (with bosses, co-workers or the general public)
3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (ability to stay on task)
4. Adapt or manage oneself (ability to care for one's daily personal needs)
As an alternative to proving B, the C criteria may instead be met, if you are still able to provide evidence of the A criteria:
This criteria essentially states you must have 2 years of evidence of an ongoing "serious and persistent" mental disorder with evidence of medical treatment (from a licensed psychologist/psychiatrist), mental health therapy (counseling or support groups), and evidence that, despite these efforts, a person is unable to handle changes in routine or meet the demands required by a typical employer (i.e., would you require frequent breaks throughout the day in excess of the typical 15-minute break in the morning/afternoon and 60-minute break for lunch?).
On a more personal note:
In order to prove this listing it is vital to have your own treating psychologist or psychiatrist. Unfortunately, Social Security does not consider Physician Assistants or Nurse Practitioners experts and therefore any licensed doctor's opinion will "trump" that of a PA or NP. Even more unfortunately, often times this also means the opinion of the doctor hired by Social Security will have greater weight. In practice, I've found these physicians tend to be somewhat claimant unfriendly. For added strength, it's helpful to show evidence of regular counseling or therapy.
One thing to also keep in mind when attempting to prove any mental health listing: Social Security can deny your case if there is evidence of drug or alcohol abuse in your medical records, even if you meet the listing otherwise. If there is evidence of abuse, they will look to see if there were any periods of sobriety and whether or not not the mental health problems kept you from working during that time. In these situations it is extremely helpful to have a letter from your treating doctor with her/his opinion on whether or not your condition would still keep you from working even if there weren't evidence of abuse.
If you have any questions about Social Security's criteria for depression or any other mental health listing, feel free to call us at 1-844-WORKN4U (1-844-967-5648).