Depression can be so disruptive to a person's life that it interferes with everyday life and makes it impossible to work. If your depression is so severe, even with medication, that you can't work any type of job, you might qualify for disability benefits.
To get Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your condition will have to be well documented as well as severely debilitating—it must affect your ability to:
And you must have been diagnosed with depression that is persistent (meaning it's lasted at least one year or is expected to last at least one year). Your depression can be considered persistent even if you're not continuously depressed (that is, you have depressive episodes that come and go).
To qualify for disability benefits for depression, your condition must:
To qualify under the SSA's official listing for depression, your depression must be characterized by at least five of the following:
The SSA also requires that your depression cause extreme limitations in at least one (or a very serious limitation in at least two) of the following areas:
Even if you don't meet the above requirements, you might still be able to qualify for disability benefits—if your depression has improved with medication, therapy, and/or psychosocial support, but your recovery is fragile, and you could experience a setback if you go back to work. Specifically, to qualify under this alternative:
If you don't qualify under the SSA's requirements for major depression, above, you might still be able to get disability benefits. The SSA will consider your depression symptoms and how much they impair your ability to do the usual activities of daily living and if there's any kind of work you can be expected to do.
The SSA will give you a rating of the type of work it thinks you can do:
If the SSA finds that you can do at least unskilled work—which is likely if you didn't meet the official listing above—you won't get disability benefits. But if the SSA finds that you can't perform even unskilled work (because, for instance, your concentration is markedly limited or you can't sustain an ordinary routine), the SSA might grant you benefits under a "medical-vocational allowance."
And if you have any type of physical impairment in addition to depression, your chance of qualifying for benefits can change. For example, let's say you get a mental RFC for unskilled work and a physical RFC for sedentary work. There might be very few jobs you can do in this category, and you might be able to qualify for benefits under a medical-vocational allowance.
Your treating doctor will need to submit a comprehensive psychiatric report and a well-documented psychiatric medical record to the SSA that shows the history of your depression. Your psychiatric record should include:
Your doctor should also include detailed examples of how your depression affects your daily activities and your ability to hold a job.
You can apply for Social Security disability benefits (both SSDI and SSI) online at your convenience. You can access the online application from anywhere at any time and pause the application process as much as you need to. Or you can call the SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to set up an appointment to fill out an application for disability benefits.
When you fill out your application, include a detailed description of how your depression affects:
If you have both depression and a physical impairment that makes it impossible for you to work (or if you're worried that your depression doesn't meet the SSA's listing), consider hiring a disability lawyer to help you file your Social Security claim. And if your initial claim gets denied, an attorney can help you file an appeal with the SSA.