When people in California develop depression, the condition could last for days, weeks, months or a lifetime. Social Security Disability benefits could be available to people with depression when its severity and persistence can be documented. The first requirement that all applicants must satisfy involves an inability to work, which the Social Security Administration defines as sustained gainful activity. A person must lack the mental focus and fortitude to perform paid labor for at least 12 months.

Medical verification presents the second hurdle for an applicant. A medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or medical doctor, must provide clinical evidence of the person’s disability due to depression. The federal government will evaluate a disability application based on objective medical records that meet the agency’s criteria for affective disorders. Documentation can come from medical treatment notes and evaluations that document psychological problems as observed by medical professionals.

Symptoms that could satisfy the requirements include a desire to commit suicide, low energy, feelings of worthlessness, sleep problems, weight changes and difficulty concentrating. The symptoms need to severely reduce social functioning and daily activities. Extended periods in which a person cannot cope with normal levels of stress or disruption represent another acceptable symptom of depression.

A person in this condition might struggle to complete an application for Social Security Disability because of the demands of organizing medical records and completing paperwork. An attorney familiar with the criteria and process for applying for benefits may be able to provide services that help a person overcome bureaucratic barriers. A legal representative might fill out the paperwork and inform the person about necessary appointments for medical and vocational evaluations. An attorney may also challenge a denial and guide the person through the process of an appeal.