Medical Documentation when you apply for disability with depression

In every disability case, the decision to grant or to deny benefits is based on one thing: the information contained in your medical records. Your medical records are the foundation of every disability decision; regardless of if you are applying on the basis of a physical condition or a mental condition; regardless of if your benefits will be paid out of the Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI) program.

Medical documentation may be especially important to those who are filing for disability benefits due to depression. Too often claimants believe that a prescription from their family doctor for antidepressants is all that they need to establish that they are suffering from debilitating depression, but this is absolutely not the case.

If you are suffering from depression to the point where it is affecting your ability to perform your work duties, or to hold a job for that matter, then you should file for Social Security Disability benefits. However, you should first make an appointment with a qualified psychiatrist, who can confirm that A) you suffer from depression, and B) your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working at any job, and C) your symptoms are likely to continue, regardless of treatment, for a period of not less than 12 months. Without an opinion supporting these facts from a qualified mental health physician, you are highly unlikely to be approved for SSD or SSI.

It can be difficult for those with a history of depression to seek psychiatric treatment. Many do not wish to be labeled mentally ill, and yet without that label, they will have no chance of getting disability benefits. Also, as well-meaning as your family physician may be, he or she is not considered to be an expert on mental health issues, at least not by the social security administration. Only an MD in Psychiatry (not a psychologist) will be able to render an opinion as to your mental symptoms, how they affect your ability to perform work, and how they may or may not be helped by prescription medication, which will carry enough weight with a disability examiner to strongly influence his or her decision.

Even if depression is only a contributing factor to your disability, you must see a psychiatrist if you want to have this allegation play any real part in the disability examiner's decision-making process. If you do not have health insurance, there are some psychiatric facilities that treat patients for free or on a sliding-scale (you pay what you can afford) basis. You can call your local office of social services (the number is available from your county health department) for a listing of such facilities.

Do not hesitate to seek help if you feel that your depression is having a negative impact on your work performance. Not only is it in your best interest emotionally, but it is also in your best interest financially'you will need to supply a written opinion supporting your claim of debilitating depression, from a qualified psychiatrist, to the disability examiner assigned to your disability case.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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