Thursday, October 14, 2010

Depression, Chronic Pain and Social Security Disability

In my practice over the years, there is a mistake made by people applying for Social Security disability benefits that I see over and over again. Many people attempting to get SSDI or SSI suffer from chronic pain due to many different medical conditions. It is extremely common for someone who is suffering from chronic pain whether it be from a back condition, fibromyalgia, RSD, or any other medical condition that involves pain to also suffer from some degree of depression as a result. Chronic pain by itself can cause depression, but many people also become depressed due to lifestyle changes caused by the severe pain. I can't tell you how many people have come to me with chronic pain conditions and were told by their doctors to seek help for depression and anxiety from a psychiatrist as part of their treatment. Many of these claimants do not follow their doctor's advice and seek treatment for depression for various reasons. I have been told things such as "I'm not crazy I'm just in pain". Many people also don't want to be labeled with a diagnosis of depression for different reasons. I am writing this post to tell you that it is very important to follow your doctor's advice and get treated for depression or anxiety if your doctor recommends it. It will not only help your Social Security disability or SSI claim, but hopefully help your overall well-being. Many people don't realize they are depressed, because they are so focused on their physical problems. Since this post is about Social Security disability and depression I will explain why it is important that you claim depression as a medical condition along with your physical problems to give yourself the best chance to win. Let me first say that everyone who has chronic pain does not also have depression but if your doctor tells you you do or advises you to be checked by a psychiatrist you should do so. In a Social Security disability claim for some of you your physical problems and pain can cause many limitations and be enough to prove to Social Security you are unable to work. For others, your physical problems and pain may severely limit you to the point where you would be unable to perform many jobs but Social Security may find there is light or sedentary work that you could perform. If you are getting treated for depression and you can show you have mental limitations from depression or anxiety these additional limitations may mean the difference between winning or losing your SSDI or SSI claim. For example, particularly if you are under 50 years old Social Security frequently will say that although you are limited from performing heavier work you can still perform sedentary work. If your psychiatrist or a Social Security psychiatrist finds you have mental limitations these mental work limitations must be considered by Social Security just as your physical limitations are. So if Social Security finds you are limited to be able to do sedentary work but you have additional mental limitations, then depending on how severe these mental limitations are they may prevent even a significant number of sedentary jobs and therefore you can be found disabled. Some mental limitations that would significantly impact your ability to perform work related activities would be your ability to interact with the public, ability to interact with supervisors and take direction, ability to complete tasks, difficulties with concentration, difficulties with memory, ability to handle stress, inability to deal with changes in work setting, inability to perform complex tasks, inability to form simple tasks, and many other possible limitations. Depending on how severe your depression is I hope you can see how getting treatment for depression and getting an opinion from your psychiatrist can greatly improve your chances of winning if you suffer from this condition and include it in your claim for disability. There is no shame in suffering from depression it is a medical condition just like your physical impairments are. I do want to caution you, that if you do not suffer from depression, do not claim that you do, for this will hurt your case. I am writing this post because of the great number of people trying to get disability benefits and their records clearly show they have depression and they do not included this condition in their claim or get treatment for it.