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Major Depressive Disorder

How Do I Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Major Depressive Disorder?Major Depressive Disorder and Disability

Major depressive disorder falls into the category of affective mental disorders. Major Depressive Disorder is a mental disorder characterized by episodes of all-encompassing low mood, accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. There is no laboratory test for major depressive disorder; the diagnosis is based on the patient's self-reported experiences, behavior reported by relatives or friends, and a mental status examination by a psychiatrist.

If you are living with a major depressive disorder, are unable to work, and have been denied Social Security Disability benefits, call the experienced Costa Mesa attorneys at Howard Law and let us fight to help you obtain the benefits you deserve.

Affective mental disorders are characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life; it generally involves either depression or elation.

The required level of severity for Major Depressive Disorder is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements in C are satisfied.

  1. Medically documented persistence, either continuous or intermittent, of one of the following:
    1. Depressive syndrome characterized by at least four of the following:
      1. Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; or
      2. Appetite disturbance with change in weight; or
      3. Sleep disturbance; or
      4. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or
      5. Decreased energy; or
      6. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness; or
      7. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
      8. Thoughts of suicide; or
      9. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking; or
    2. Manic syndrome characterized by at least three of the following:
      1. Hyperactivity; or
      2. Pressure of speech; or
      3. Flight of ideas; or
      4. Inflated self-esteem; or
      5. Decreased need for sleep; or
      6. Easy distractibility; or
      7. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences which are not recognized; or
      8. Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking; or
    3. Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes (and currently characterized by either or both syndromes);
  2. AND

  3. Resulting in at least two of the following:
    1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
    2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
    3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or
    4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;
  4. OR

  5. Medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder of at least 2 years' duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:
    1. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration; or
    2. A residual disease process that has resulted in such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment would be predicted to cause the individual to decompensate; or
    3. Current history of 1 or more years' inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued need for such an arrangement.

If you have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, are unable to work, and have been denied Social Security Disability benefits, call the experienced Brea Social Security Disability attorneys at Howard Law, and let us fight to get you the benefits you deserve.

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Listing vs. Residual Functional Capacity (RFC): How Does the Social Security Administration Determine Whether I Qualify for Disability Benefits for Major Depressive Disorder?

Social Security disability benefits may be available for people who suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. The Social Security Administration must first determine whether your Major Depressive Disorder is severe enough to meet or equal a listing at Step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The Social Security Administration will conclude that you are disabled and eligible for disability benefits if it determines that you meet or equal a listing because of your Major Depressive Disorder.

If the Social Security Administration decides that your Major Depressive Disorder is not severe enough to equal or meet a listing, it must assess the work that you are still capable of doing, in spite of your illness or disease. The work that you are able to do in spite of your illness or disease is called residual functional capacity (RFC). You may qualify for benefits at Step 4 and Step 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process if you are able to do in spite of your illness or disease.

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How Can I Meet a Listing and Win Social Security Disability Benefits for Major Depressive Disorder?

The Social Security Administration will determine whether you are disabled at Step 3 of the Sequential Evaluation Process by evaluating whether your Major Depressive Disorder is severe enough to equal a listing.

The term "listing" refers to a compiled list of common impairments. The Social Security Administration created a set of guidelines called the Listing of Impairments that contains the most common impairments. For each listing of a particular impairment, there is an explanation regarding the degree of severity that the Social Security Administration presumes would prevent a person from performing substantial work.

The Social Security Administration will consider you disabled if your Major Depressive Disorder is severe enough to meet or equal a listing.

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What is Your Residual Functional Capacity Assessment for Major Depressive Disorder?

If the Social Security Administration decides that your Major Depressive Disorder is not severe enough to equal or meet a listing, it must assess the work that you are still capable of doing, in spite of your illness or disease. The work that you are able to do in spite of your illness or disease is called residual functional capacity (RFC). You may qualify for benefits at Step 4 and Step 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process if you are able to do in spite of your illness or disease.

The Social Security Administration expressesan RFC for physical impairments in terms of whether the Social Security Administration believes you are able to do heavy, medium, light, or sedentary work in spite of your impairments. The lower your RFC, the less the Social Security Administration believes you can do.

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Can Your Doctor's Medical Opinion Help You Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits for Major Depressive Disorder?

The role of the Social Security Administration is to conclusivelyestablish whether you are disabled based on your education, work experience, medical evidence, and your age.

The role of your doctor is to provide the Social Security Administration with informationconcerning the degree of your medical impairment by providing the Social Security Administration medical source statement that describes your capacity for work which is part of your residual functional capacity assessment. Your residual functional capacity is what you can still do despite your limitations.

The Social Security Administration must consider your treating physician's opinion because the Social Security Administration considers it to be controlling when making its decision.

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What is the 5 Step Sequential Evaluation Process?

The Social Security Administration has created a five (5) step sequential process to determine whether an adult claimant is entitled to receive disability benefits. Children have a different test to determine eligibility.

Step 1: Substantial Gainful Activity

The Social Security Administration presumes that if you are working and that you make a certain amount of money that you are engaging in what it determines to be a substantial gainful activity (SGA). The Social Security Administration considers a person to be engaged in a SGA if that person is earning more than a certain amount of money each month (i.e. net of impairment - related work related expenses).

In 2013, the Social Security Administration has determined that a statutorily blind individual is engaged in a SGA if they earn more than $1740.00 per month while a non-blind individual must earn more than $1040.00 per month. Changes in the national average wage index usually affect the aforementioned SGA amounts.

Step 2: Severe Impairment

The Social Security Administration has determined that each claimant must either have a severe impairment or a combination of impairments. The impairment or combination of impairments must drastically limit the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities without regard to age, work history, or education. For many claimants, the level of proof at this level is minimal; therefore, they usually satisfy the Step 2 requirements and proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Listing of Impairments

The Listing of Impairments details specific impairments that the Social Security Administration considers severe enough to prevent an adult claimant from engaging in a substantial gainful activity and in the case of a minor, the impairment has to be severe enough to cause functional limitations. There is also a durational requirement. The Social Security Administration has determined that the impairment must last for 12 months or long or result in the death of the claimant. If the claimant fails Step 3 because they do not meet or equal a listing then the case will proceed to Step 4.

Step 4: Past Relevant Work

At Step 4, if your condition is severe enough to meet the requirements of Step 2 (Severe Impairment); however, your severe impairment does not meet or equal a listed impairment that is the subject of Step 3 (Listing of Impairments), then the Social Security Administration must decide whether your severe impairment interferes with your ability to do any of the work you previously performed. The Social Security Administration likes to look at the work you performed over the past 15 years prior to the onset of your disability. If the Social Security Administration determines that your impairment does not interfere with work you previously did then you must proceed to Step 5.

Step 5: Ability to Perform Other Work

A majority of disability claims are decided at this level. If you cannot perform work you did in your past, then a determination must be made as to whether you can adjust to different types of work. The determination at this level takes into consideration your education, age, and prior work and is better known as your residual functional capacity.

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