Depression is fairly common and affects nearly twice as many women (10.4%) as men (5.5%), according to the CDC. In fact, nearly 1 in 10 Americans aged 20 and older suffer from depression in their lifetime. What’s more, about 1 in 5 depressed people report “moderate or extreme difficulty” with work, daily living or social activities. If you can meet certain requirements, then you may qualify for Social Security disability for depression. We’ll explain what you need to know before you apply below.
What to Know Before Filing Your Disability for Depression Claim
Every person who applies for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits must meet certain basic eligibility rules. This is true regardless of whether you have cancer, depression or several different health problems. So, before you apply for disability benefits, answer these questions first:
- Did you work at least 5 in the last 10 years in jobs where you paid Social Security taxes? If yes, go to question #2.
- Are you currently between 18 and 65 years old? If yes, go to question #3.
- Are you currently receiving any Social Security benefits? If no, go to question #4.
- Have you seen a doctor to treat your condition in the last 6-12 months? If yes, go to question #5.
- Will your condition force you to stop working for at least one year? If yes, you can pass the basic disability for depression eligibility screening.
It’s normal for people to feel down or blue from time to time, especially during stressful periods or events. However, real depression is much more than temporary sadness and most people need help to manage its symptoms. If depression interferes with your ability to complete basic daily living tasks, then you likely qualify for SSD benefits. Next, let’s look at what criteria the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to evaluate disability for depression claims.
How Does the SSA Medically Evaluate Disability for Depression Claims?
The SSA’s Blue Book lists disability for depression criteria under section 12.04, Depressive, bipolar and related disorders. There are two steps the SSA claims examiner takes when reviewing your application for disability benefits.
Step 1: Do You Have 5+ Qualifying Depression Symptoms?
You must submit medical evidence showing you have at least five of these depression symptoms:
- Your mood is generally depressed
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia, restlessness, night terrors, poor quality sleep, etc.)
- Little to no interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Weight gain or loss because you’re never hungry or overeating
- Feeling like you have less energy
- People who know you well say you move slower than you did before or act agitated, almost like you’re angry
- Trouble focusing on or completing your usual work, home, school or social activities/tasks
- Feeling worthless or guilty for no good reason
- Thinking about death often or having suicidal thoughts
Ask your therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist or primary care physician for complete medical records that relate to your depression, including:
- Your diagnosis date (especially if it’s new or recent)
- Current prescription medications, including dosage, frequency and side effects
- Treatment notes showing how your doctor manages your depression symptoms
- Any tests your doctor used to rule out other health issues, including bloodwork for hormone or thyroid disorders
Step 2: Does Your Depression Also Meet At Least One of These Conditions?
Next, the SSA wants to know just how bad your depression symptoms affect your daily life. To pass this step, either 1 or 2 below must accurately describe you:
- Your depression is serious and persistent, despite receiving regular treatments for at least two years. You must submit complete documentation that supports this along with your disability for depression claim. In addition, you have trouble adapting to changes in your routine, job, relationships or living arrangements.
- You have moderate to extreme difficulty interacting with other people, taking care of yourself, paying attention, remembering things and/or following directions.
Many disability for depression applicants ask their doctors to provide a written statement addressing this particular section. In addition, you may find it helpful to keep a symptom diary documenting how depression limits your ability to work. You want to include things like:
- How often your depression symptoms made you late, miss work, or leave early
- If you ever got fired or quit a job specifically because of your depression
- Track “good” vs. “bad” days and how they impact your daily activities (i.e., getting dressed, showering, eating meals without help)
- Hospitalization dates or trips to the ER, if applicable
Now that you know what to do, how hard is it to get disability for depression? In December 2019, about 13% of people got monthly SSD payments for anxiety, depression or both. In other words, at least 1 in every 8 people with approved disability claims have mood disorders.
Bonus Tip: You’re more likely to get disability for depression if you list multiple health problems on your application. About 62% of people approved for benefits list multiple conditions on their SSD claims.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Filing your claim through a Social Security attorney triples your chances for benefit approval. Since these lawyers always work on contingency, you pay $0 if you don’t win. The SSA approves 1 in 5 first-time applicants for benefits, on average (20%), and most of them have legal assistance (17.7%).
You can sign up for a free phone call from a lawyer who can answer your claim questions today. You’re not obligated to do anything else. But if you win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now:
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.