How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Medical Documentation when you apply for disability with depression

In every disability case, the decision to grant or to deny benefits is based on one thing: the information contained in your medical records. Your medical records are the foundation of every disability decision; regardless of if you are applying on the basis of a physical condition or a mental condition; regardless of if your benefits will be paid out of the Social Security Disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI) program.

Medical documentation may be especially important to those who are filing for disability benefits due to depression. Too often claimants believe that a prescription from their family doctor for antidepressants is all that they need to establish that they are suffering from debilitating depression, but this is absolutely not the case.

If you are suffering from depression to the point where it is affecting your ability to perform your work duties, or to hold a job for that matter, then you should file for Social Security Disability benefits. However, you should first make an appointment with a qualified psychiatrist, who can confirm that A) you suffer from depression, and B) your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working at any job, and C) your symptoms are likely to continue, regardless of treatment, for a period of not less than 12 months. Without an opinion supporting these facts from a qualified mental health physician, you are highly unlikely to be approved for SSD or SSI.

It can be difficult for those with a history of depression to seek psychiatric treatment. Many do not wish to be labeled mentally ill, and yet without that label, they will have no chance of getting disability benefits. Also, as well-meaning as your family physician may be, he or she is not considered to be an expert on mental health issues, at least not by the social security administration. Only an MD in Psychiatry (not a psychologist) will be able to render an opinion as to your mental symptoms, how they affect your ability to perform work, and how they may or may not be helped by prescription medication, which will carry enough weight with a disability examiner to strongly influence his or her decision.

Even if depression is only a contributing factor to your disability, you must see a psychiatrist if you want to have this allegation play any real part in the disability examiner’s decision-making process. If you do not have health insurance, there are some psychiatric facilities that treat patients for free or on a sliding-scale (you pay what you can afford) basis. You can call your local office of social services (the number is available from your county health department) for a listing of such facilities.

Do not hesitate to seek help if you feel that your depression is having a negative impact on your work performance. Not only is it in your best interest emotionally, but it is also in your best interest financially—you will need to supply a written opinion supporting your claim of debilitating depression, from a qualified psychiatrist, to the disability examiner assigned to your disability case.

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For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.