The Social Security Administration has a well developed system of looking at disability claims based upon depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Whether you live in Kentucky or Indiana, Louisville or Southern Indiana- the evaluation is the same.
Initially, the SSA will ask when you last worked, and determine a valid date for when you became truly disabled by your condition. We spend a great deal of time explaining to our clients a very simple concept: even though you may have lived with depression for years, it may not have always been disabling. The SSA asks the question about your work status first because it is the best gauge of whether or not you are disabled. Generally speaking, you're not disabled if you're working! (most of the time, and we'll talk about this in yet another post at a later date!)
Once your work status is established, the SSA asks a second question: do you have a severe problem? In my previous post about depression, I discussed the need to get treatment on a regular basis. After all, if you're not being seen by a mental health professional, it's going to be very difficult to prove that 1) you have depression and 2) that it is a very severe problem. Word to the wise: getting treatment by a family practitioner is not usually enough in Social Security disability claims.
When determining severity, the SSA also has to consider one other factor: how long is your depression going to last AND continue to be severe? It's a tough one. Many people will improve after seeking treatment. Maybe not much, but then again- maybe it will be enough to get back to work. Depression, bipolar and anxiety ebb and flow, and it is for this reason that some folks have difficulty proving disability at this step. But if you can adequately show that your problems will last for at least a year, you get to go to the third step.
At the third step of the disability process, the SSA looks at your depression, bipolar or anxiety and tries to determine if it is actually severe enough for them to simply say "this person is depressed and is disabled. No question about it." Yet it is very difficult to get disability at this third step. The qualifications are very strict, and most people with depression will have a hard time establishing disability at this step. Every possible point has to be met.
Which leads us to the fourth and fifth steps of this process. This is where most people will be found disabled. In part three of this series, I'll explain these final, crucial steps in the disability process.