Continuous treatment, documentation from mental healthcare professionals are important when seeking Social Security disability benefits
—June 13, 2011—Depression is a relatively common disorder that can interrupt lifestyles, normal routines and daily activities. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) report that depression and other debilitating mental illnesses affect 6 percent of the adult population and cost more than $300 billion each year. According to Allsup, which represents tens of thousands people nationwide in the Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI) application process each year, it is imperative that those who suffer with depression receive the necessary treatment and ensure documentation by their healthcare providers.
Depression comes in several forms, according to NIMH, including major depression, dysthymia, psychosis, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder and bipolar disorder. In addition, depression may live side-by-side with other illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia and anxiety disorder.
The most important step for individuals is to make their doctor aware of their illness so that it can be properly addressed, said Ed Swierczek, senior claims representative at Allsup. Social Security Disability Insurance is a federally mandated insurance program. SSDI
provides monthly benefits to individuals with a severe disability who are under full retirement age (age 65 or older) and who can no longer work because of a severe disability (injury, illness or condition) that is expected to last for at least 12 months or is terminal. Individuals must have paid FICA taxes to be eligible.
“Anyone suffering from depression should always seek a mental healthcare professional for treatment,” Swierczek said. “Psychiatrists and psychologists are preferred as treatment sources, but the Social Security Administration has now indicated in a recent ruling that the evidence from a licensed clinical social worker or therapist may be used as evidence in the support of a claim for SSDI benefits
Documentation of medical treatment by mental health professionals is needed to reflect the presence of the disorder as well as other symptoms produced by the illness. “A primary care physician may be aware of your depression, but the records of a qualified mental healthcare professional will have more weight before an administrative law judge,” Swierczek said.
Find a doctor who will take steps to rule out all other possibilities. Some medications, viruses or a thyroid disorder can imitate the same symptoms as depression. When the doctor determines that no other medical condition is the cause, the patient may then be referred to a mental health professional for a thorough diagnostic evaluation.
An individual with depression can be treated with a number of methods once a diagnosis has been determined. The most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.
“Depression can affect one not only mentally but physically,” Swierczek said. “Symptoms can lead to reduced energy, enthusiasm and motivation. This can be expressed by a claimant as marked fatigue or not feeling like doing anything.”
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of American (ADAA), other symptoms include loss of interest in pleasurable hobbies and activities, poor sleep, low appetite, change in weight, difficulty concentrating and thinking. In addition, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, irritability and thoughts of suicide can play a part in a major depressive episode.
“Periodic and timely doctor visits are important to document the ongoing nature of depression for SSDI benefits,” Swierczek said. “The credibility of a claim could be questioned if one only sees a mental healthcare professional a few times a year.”
Both NIMH and ADAA, which provide additional resources to individuals and their families, highlight the nature of depression as a treatable disorder. Depression sufferers who follow appropriate treatment can get better and prevent recurrence.
Contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276 for a free SSDI evaluation or for answers to SSDI eligibility questions. Learn more about Social Security disability
benefits at Allsup.com.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit www.Allsup.com.