April 15, 2013

Depression and Your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

I represent my Indiana neighbors in hundreds of disability hearings each year, and find the diagnosis of depression in the majority of them.  From my experience talking to these individuals, I understand how disabling depression can be and how it can prevent anyone from holding down a full-time job.  When the Social Security Administration (SSA) analyzes your claim, it must consider all of the impairments you have, both physical and mental, alone and in combination.  It is important, therefore, when you apply for benefits to let the SSA know about all of the problems that you have that affect your ability to work.

One of my biggest challenges representing people with depression comes when I have a client who is receiving all of her mental health diagnoses and treatment from her family physician.  While your family doctor can make a diagnosis of depression and prescribe medications for it, she is not a mental health specialist.  One factor an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) considers when determining whether your depression is severe enough to keep you from being able to work is whether you are getting treatment from a specialist.  If you have heart problems, most judges expect you to receive treatment from a cardiologist; if you have back problems they want to see records from an orthopedist.  In the same way, if you have depression or another mental health impairment, most ALJs think that you should be receiving treatment from a psychiatrist and attending counseling with a psychologist, social worker, or other mental health professional.  Your chances of winning your claim may be greatly enhanced if you are seeing a psychiatrist and therapist on a regular basis. When I represent a client with depression, I try to obtain statements from his psychiatrist or therapist to submit to the ALJ.  A specialist can provide an expert analysis of the nature and severity of my client’s symptoms and an authoritative opinion about how those symptoms keep my client from working.  If you suffer from depression, I cannot emphasize enough the importance, in my experience as a disability lawyer, of being able to present evidence that you have been receiving long-term, regular treatment from a mental health specialist.

While symptoms vary for individuals suffering from depression, some of the more common symptoms can include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Crying spells
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Appetite disturbance
  • Lack of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in activities

The waiting time between your application for benefits and your hearing in front of an ALJ can be very lengthy.  I understand it is hard to be patient when you and your family are struggling financially, and you may be tempted to give up.  Remember, though, if the ALJ finds you disabled at your hearing, you may be entitled to the benefits you would have been receiving during that waiting time.  If the judge does find you entitled to past-due benefits, you will typically receive that money as a lump sum payment.  It is important to stick with your claim and not give up, because there are statistics that show your chances of winning your claim increase at the hearing level.  As an Indianapolis disability lawyer I provide a free consultation to help you better understand the claims process.  The preceding has been provided for your information only and does not constitute legal advice.

 

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