Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. today. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), this type of depression affects over 16 million people across the country.
Depression is a severe mental illness that can lead to an inability to work or function in their daily lives. Depression does qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
This guide explains all you need to know about government support for depression today.
Is Depression a Disability?
A disability, according to U.S. Social Security, is any mental or physical condition that prevents you from doing any substantial work for at least a year. It's also a condition that prevents you from working continuously for a year, such that you have to stop working every few months to manage your symptoms. By these definitions, depression is a disability.
That said, some disabilities are easy to recognize from their clearly visible symptoms. But depression is difficult to identify as a disability because it's not often evident to outsiders. This is why you need to know how to claim social security benefits to support your daily life successfully.
Can I Get Disability Benefits for Depression?
The short answer is yes; you can get disability benefits for depression. If you have a medical diagnosis for depression, and it has interfered with your job or prevented you from finding work, then it's possible to receive social security benefits.
However, let's look at the symptoms of depression according to the Social Security Administration (SSA) below.
Eligible Symptoms of Depression
The SSA Blue Book outlines several symptoms of depression, but you need only have a certain number of them to qualify for benefits.
Category A: Documentation of Depression Symptoms
You must show that you've experienced a depressive disorder with at least five of the symptoms below:
- Loss of interest in nearly all activities
- A depressed mood
- A change of appetite that leads to either weight loss or weight gain
- Sleep changes, either oversleeping or insomnia
- Suicidal thoughts
- A change in motor skills, either lethargy or agitation in speaking, writing, walking, etc
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Difficulty in thinking or concentration
- Low energy level
Category B: Limitations in Mental Functions
You must show that you've experienced a severe limitation, or a marked limitation, in the following mental skills:
- Understanding, recalling, or applying information, such as learning a new skill or making value judgments in your decisions
- Interacting with others in a socially appropriate manner
- Concentration, persistence, or keeping up pace with your tasks
- Adapting to your environment or managing yourself in terms of personal hygiene, cooking, paying the bills, cooking, etc.
Category C: Serious and Persistent Depression
Your depression symptoms are serious and persistent if you have had it medically documented for at least two years. Your medical records must show that:
- You have ongoing treatment for depression, either medications, therapy, psychosocial support, or a structured setting that helps manage your symptoms, and
- However, you have the capacity limited to adjust to changes that are outside of your everyday life.
The above requirements indicate that you're doing your absolute best to recover from depression. However, the process is relatively slow, and going back to work will be a significant setback for your recovery.
Types of Depression as Disability
The symptoms above describe depression in general, but they vary depending on their triggers and severity of symptoms. These include:
- Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder
- Dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder
- Postpartum depression following childbirth
- Psychotic depression, which includes hallucinations and delusional thinking
Social Security Benefit Programs for Depression
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has three benefits programs for depression as a disability:
- SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance
- SSI, or Supplemental Security Income
- RFC, or Reduced Functional Capacity
All of these programs give you a monthly income if your existing income meets the social security threshold.
SSDI for Depression as a Disability
Apply for SSDI if you've previously held a job long enough to gather social security credits. The 2022 SSDI requirement is 40 credits. You can earn only four credits per year for every $1,510 in your income. You'll have to make at least $6,040 this year to get the required four credits.
Note: Your average earnings during working years determine your disability benefits, not the number of credits you have accrued over time. So even if you have more credits from previous work, they won't factor as much into your disability support amount.
In addition to credits, you also have to meet more criteria, such as:
- Severe depression symptoms
- Inability to perform your job for at least a year because of depression
- Failure to hold any other position relevant to your age, education, and skills because of depression
- Earn less than $1,260 per month
SSI for Depression as a Disability
Since many people already struggle to sustain a job due to depression, the SSDI requirements can be prohibitive. The SSI is a better option since it has fewer requirements and supports your basic needs like housing, food, and clothing.
The SSI disability for depression program requires that you:
- Have limited income, possessions, or resources
- Live with a disability
- Be at least 65 years old
- Be a citizen, national or qualified noncitizen of the U.S.
- Live in any of the U.S. states, Northern Mariana Islands, or the District of Columbia.
RFC for Depression as a Disability
The RFC considers your eligibility according to how much your depression symptoms interfere with your daily activities, plus if you can sustain a job with those symptoms. With this program, the SSA gives you one of three work ratings:
- Skilled work
- Semi-skilled work
- Unskilled work
The RFC allows for both physical and mental disabilities, and you stand a better chance of qualifying for benefits if you have both. This is because if you have a physical disability alongside depression, work opportunities are much more limited.
Note: According to their evaluation, you may not qualify for RFC benefits if you can sustain unskilled work. You may only receive benefits if you can't hold any kind of unskilled work, for example, if you can't maintain a routine or can't concentrate on tasks. In such a case, you receive benefits called a medical-vocational allowance.
Types of Evidence for Depression as a Disability
The SSA only gives benefits for depression based on your medical and work history. Consult your healthcare provider for:
- A comprehensive psychiatric report
- A detailed psychiatric medical record
- All treatments you've tried, including medications and therapy and their effects
- Clear examples of how depression affects your daily activities and work prospects
As for your work history, gather all your documents that explain your circumstances, given the severity of your depression. Include:
- Your proof of age, like your birth certificate or driver's license
- Your most recent federal tax returns or W-2
- Your resumé or a description of your past jobs
- Your references from previous employers
How to Apply for Disability Benefits for Depression
1. Get assistance
The application process can be overwhelming, so it's always best to consult an expert in social security disability applications like BenefitsClaim.com. There are no upfront fees or retainers, so you get free expert guidance at every step.
If you choose to make your application, you can make an appointment with your nearest Social Security office. You can also submit your SSA application online.
2. Gather your evidence
Notify your healthcare providers that you plan to apply for disability benefits for depression. This way, you only need to sign the necessary release forms, and they will legally disclose your records to the SSA. You could also get copies of these medical records to submit your disability benefits application in person.
3. Submit your application
Fill out all the relevant forms and append your documents for your disability benefits application. Present these documents to your local SSA office if you decide to make your disability application. However, online applications are the most convenient since you can take your time and apply from anywhere.
4. Receive your benefits
It takes about 3 to 5 months to receive feedback from the SSA about your disability application. You'll get the news via phone or email, including if your application failed. In that case, you have 60 days to appeal the decision formally.
Note: The SSA reviews its disability benefits recipients regularly. You'll get your benefits only if you remain eligible. If your symptoms improve or you return to work, notify the SSA as soon as possible.
Get Started with Disability Benefits for Depression Today
So, is depression a disability? Yes, our team at BenefitsClaim.com is ready to guide you through disability benefits for depression. Get in touch with us for a free online disability case evaluation, plus sound legal advice to help you get the best possible outcome. To get started, apply now.
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