How do you apply for disability if you have depression?

The Social Security Disability application process is the same no matter what your disabling condition is. If your depression problems have kept you from performing substantial gainful work activity for twelve months or you expect to be unable to work for at least twelve months due to the symptoms of your depression, you should contact Social Security for an appointment to file for disability.

Currently, you can file an application for disability benefits by phone, in person at your local Social Security office, or in some cases online (at this point in time you can only file for Social Security Disability online not SSI).

If you chose to file your disability claim by phone or in person at your local Social Security office, your claim will be taken by a claims representative. This is true for disability claims filed online as well.

If you want to file for SSI, you will have to speak with a claims representative. Since many claims are concurrent (meaning they involve both SSI and Social Security Disability), it does make sense to skip the online process and file your claim by phone or in person.

The Disability Interview

During your disability interview, a claims representative will ask you questions about your medical treatment sources (i.e. physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, hospitals, or any other medical professional who has treated you for your depression), the medications you are currently taking along with any side effects, and any medical testing you have had.

Preparing for the disability interview

You should come to your appointment prepared to give your doctor's names, addresses, phone numbers, and your treatment dates.

In addition to medical information, the claims representative will ask questions about your previous fifteen years of work. You do not have to remember the names of all your places of employment but you do need to know the types of work you did, what you were paid, and how many hours you worked.

Social Security has to develop work information because it is part of the disability evaluation process. To be approved for disability, you must have a severe condition that not only prevents your return to any of your past work but precludes any other work performed in the national economy (other work evaluations involve your age, education, your functional limitations and the transferability of your work skills).

If you have problems with your memory, write your medical and work information on a piece of paper or on the green disability information sheet provided by Social Security to help you prepare for your disability interview (sometimes they do not get this to you so list them on paper if necessary).

If you are filing for SSI disability, you should come prepared to answer questions about your income and resources. The SSI disability program requires the same medical information and work information along with your financial information. Income for the purposes of your SSI disability application might include wages, pensions, rental income, investment income, short and long term disability benefits, workman's compensation, or any other kind of income.

If you meet the income limits for SSI, you still have one other hurdle to get over to be eligible for this needs based disability program. You have to meet the SSI resource limit. SSI disability allows you to exclude your most valuable vehicle and your home and the land it sits on. If you own any other vehicles or land not connected to the land your house sits, on it will be counted toward the SSI resource (asset) limit.

Additionally, other resources such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, 401k plans, burial plots, inheritances, heir land, or any other resource that can be easily converted to cash, are counted toward the resource limit as well.

Currently, Social Security allows individuals to have two thousand dollars in resources, while couples are allowed three thousand dollars in resources.

The claims representative uses all of this information to evaluate your eligibility for Social Security and SSI disability, and to complete all necessary disability report forms so that your disability claim can be sent for a disability decision.

If you meet the eligibility requirements of both disability programs, your disability claim will be sent for a concurrent decision (meaning they make a decision for both SSDI and SSI disability at the same time). If not, your disability claim will be sent as a SSDI-only or SSI-only only disability claim to a state disability agency for a medical decision.

Additional information:

Should I List My Past Depression Medications on My Social Security Disability or SSI Application?

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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