Qualifying for Disability Benefits (SSDI) with Depression or Anxiety in Pennsylvania

Disability does not always have to mean a physical injury or illness.  Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression can also have devastating effects, rendering patients unable to work for long periods of time.  If you’re struggling with severe depression or anxiety, you may be able to qualify for monthly disability benefits to help you pay your bills and other costs of living while employment isn’t an option.

At Young, Marr & Associates, our compassionate social security disability lawyers have more than 25 years of experience helping thousands of clients get approved for benefits and appealing SSA rejections.  We are proud to serve communities throughout Pennsylvania, and offer free initial consultations for all new clients.

To start discussing your claim in a free and private case evaluation, call our law offices today at (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania.

How the SSA Defines a Disability

In order to qualify for monthly disability benefits, there are two distinct sets of SSA requirements you will need to meet: the general requirements which apply to all claimants (with a few rare exceptions), and the medical requirements specific to depression and/or anxiety.  These medical requirements are outlined in the “Blue Book” or Listing of Impairments; but first, let’s examine the general requirements below:

  • Your condition should be disabling to the extent that you cannot perform substantial work.  If you can work around your illness with therapy, prescription medications, or other means of treatment, you will not be considered severely disabled.
  • Your condition must be long-term, with a history or expected prognosis spanning at least 12 consecutive months.
  • If you are working and are filing an SSDI claim, you should not be earning more than $1,070 per month in 2014 or $1,090 per month in 2015.  The income limit or “Federal Benefit Rate” imposed on is lower, but the calculation is complex as not all income is actually counted toward that limit.

If you’re able to meet these general requirements, it’s time to start learning about the condition-specific requirements which apply to your claim.

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SSA Requirements for Getting a Depression Disability Claim Approved

At first glance, depression does not appear to be listed in the Blue Book.  However, if you read closely you can find it listed under Section 12.04 (Affective Disorders) in the Listing of Impairments.  Section 12.04 provides the following:

[Affective 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.

However, your depression will need to meet certain standards in order to be considered severe and therefore disabling.  For example, the SSA medical examiners want to be sure that claimants exhibit at least a few of the following symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Persistent insomnia.
  • Increase or decrease in appetite including weight changes.
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

These and similar symptoms should result in persistent and serious difficulties with and disruptions to daily life, social function, and concentration.

The SSA may also subject claimants to further medical tests or review the claimant’s history of former tests, including a mental status examination to be performed during a clinical interview, as well as psychological testing, which must be “individually administered by a qualified specialist.”  Self-diagnosis alone is not sufficient.

SSA Criteria for Getting an Anxiety Disability Claim Approved

Anxiety is also listed under Section 12.00 (Mental Disorders), and can be found under Section 12.06 (Anxiety-Related Disorders).  Section 12.06 states:

In these disorders anxiety is either the predominant disturbance or it is experienced if the individual attempts to master symptoms; for example, confronting the dreaded object or situation in a phobic disorder or resisting the obsessions or compulsions in obsessive compulsive disorders.

Therefore, the term “anxiety” also encompasses extreme phobias and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

As with depression, the claimant must display certain signs and symptoms in order to be approved by the SSA.  For example, you and your doctor will need to provide medical evidence of at least a few of the following conditions:

  • Motor tension, e.g. restlessness, shaking.
  • Scanning and hyper-vigilance.
  • Recurring and severe panic attacks, compulsions, obsessions, or unwanted recollections of traumatic experiences from the past.

As with depression, symptoms like these should result in severe and ongoing difficulties with major areas of your day-to-day life.

Disability Lawyers Serving Pennsylvania

If you’re living with severe anxiety or depression in Pennsylvania, you may be a good candidate for monthly SSI or SSDI benefits. To set up a free and private legal consultation with an experienced disability benefits lawyer, call Young, Marr & Associates at (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania right away.