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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.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria