Slepian Smith, PLLC

How Do You Prove A Depression Disability Case?

Major depressive disorder impacts nearly 7 percent of American adults and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Depression is associated with biological, psychological and environmental factors and is often debilitating.

Since 1984, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has considered mental illness to be disabling, but claims are often denied by Social Security Disability (SSD) examiners. Most claims are denied for lack of evidence, but failing to follow a treatment plan and stigma against mental illness also play a role.

Lack of evidence

There is no single approach for treating depression. Not everyone displays all symptoms all the time and diagnosis is often based on your doctor’s observations.

When considering a mental disorder disability diagnosis, the SSD examiner considers your ability to meet the medical criteria and how the disorder limits your ability to function. Providing additional evidence to support your claim is beneficial — copies of your case files from your social worker or notes from your therapist are a great starting point. Additionally, personal accounts such as a journal detailing your daily symptoms and limited capacity serve as another form of evidence.

Cultural bias

No matter how many forward strides are made in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, a cultural stigma still exists. If the SSD examiner has a bias, your case may not be given a fair evaluation.

Also, SSD examiners may not fully understand the cyclical nature of depression and think the illness has been cured when symptoms are not immediately apparent. Ongoing treatment can help improve mood and activity levels, but the signs of depression can disappear and reappear, often triggered by an external event.


You can hinder your depression disability claim by failing to comply with your treatment plan. Patients may not like the way their medication makes them feel and refuse to take it. Others refuse to go to therapy or counseling sessions. Failing to follow your treatment plan gives the SSA a reason to deny your claim.

Stick to your treatment plan and keep detailed records of how your depression limits your capacity to work and function normally. If you suffer from depression and it has impacted your ability to work, it may be time to explore legal options for obtaining disability benefits.

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