This is the 5th article in a series designed to explain the Social Security and SSI disability application process and to provide helpful information to individuals applying for those benefits. An application for benefits should be filed as soon as the person believes he or she will not be able to work for medical reasons for at least 12 consecutive months. You can apply for benefits by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213.
In Part IV of this series, we explained that the most important factor that distinguishes successful disability cases from unsuccessful ones is how well the individual’s symptoms and functional limitations are recorded in their doctors’ treatment records. This article focuses on the role that mental symptoms play in the disability determination process.
I have been experiencing depression and anxiety as a result of my physical problems. I haven’t discussed those symptoms with my doctors. Should I?
Social Security considers all of a person’s limitations in determining whether or not they are disabled. Mental impairments such as depression and anxiety are extremely common. In close cases, the fact that a person has been diagnosed and treated for depression or anxiety may make a difference in winning the claim. Our advice to clients is that they should always report all of their mental health symptoms. If a case needs to go to an administrative hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will only be able to consider the symptoms for which a person is receiving treatment. For example, if a person is severely depressed but not receiving treatment for those symptoms, the judge will not be able to consider those symptoms. Treatment for mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety will always help a Social Security or SSI disability case.
I have been depressed (or had other mental symptoms) for a while now but have received no treatment. Is it too late to start now?
For your own health as well as to document all of your symptoms, it is never too late to report those symptoms and begin treatment. The sooner that you report your symptoms and begin treatment, the better.
If I report mental health symptoms, won’t that detract from my claim of disability based upon my other medical problems?
No. Social Security actually expects people with severe and chronic physical impairments to develop symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. As explained above, reporting those symptoms and receiving treatment for them will always be helpful to your claim.
What type of treatment should a person receive for symptoms of depression and/or anxiety?
We advise our clients to be guided by their primary care doctor or specialist in this regard. Depending upon the nature and severity of your depression and/or anxiety symptoms, your doctor may feel comfortable treating you or they may suggest referral to a specialist (such as a therapist or psychiatrist). The level of treatment you receive would depend upon the nature of your symptoms. In general, it is better to be treated by a specialist (such as a therapist or a psychiatrist) than by your family doctor.
In summary, a person with significant symptoms of depression or anxiety will help both themselves and their disability claim by reporting those symptoms and receiving treatment for them.
If you or someone you know has any questions about disability benefits, call the Disability and Injury Law Offices of David R. Machek for a free consultation at: 215-886-0398 or email us at: [email protected]. The Disability and Injury Law Offices of David. R, Machek maintains offices in center city Philadelphia and Jenkintown, PA. The Disability and Injury Law Offices of David R. Machek focuses its legal practice exclusively on Social Security and SSI disability matters. For more information, please visit our website at: www.disabilitylawpa.com