SSI Depression Disability Benefits: Do You Qualify?

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Is depression a disability? According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) those diagnosed with depression my be eligible for  Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Each case is different depending on the unique circumstances of your mental health, but you may be eligible for benefits.

Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders are common mental disorders in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, along with anxiety and obsessive disorders. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in disorders such as depression and anxiety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in late June, nearly one third of Americans reported anxiety or depression symptoms related to COVID-19, and 11% have even considered suicide.

In some cases, depression can be so severe that it prevents you from performing daily tasks.

Depression may even prevent you from working. Depending on the nature and symptoms of your depression, severe depression may qualify you for SSI.

However, proving the severity of your condition isn’t always easy, and it can take time. Consulting an SSI attorney can help you navigate your case and increase the chances of a positive outcome for your claim.

Interested in a free case evaluation? Contact us.

This article will explore the following topics:

  1.     What Is SSI?
  2.     When Does Depression Qualify for SSI?
  3.     What Else Should You Know about Mental Health Disorders and SSI?
  4.     When Can I Talk With an SSI Attorney?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a needs-based benefits program. You may also quality or Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Medicaid. All of these programs are in place to help people who are either over 65, are blind or disabled at any age, or have limited income and resources. 

This is different from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which you pay into over time by working and acquiring work credits, or “quarters.”

While the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates the severity of your disability the same way for both programs, SSI is meant to help low-income or no-income individuals afford basic means such as food, shelter, medicines, and clothing.

2020 maximum benefits:

  •       $783 per individual
  •       $1,175 per couple

Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA, is how much income you can earn on a monthly basis. If you make more than these amounts, you're not eligible for benefits.

2020 SGA limits:

  •       $1,260 per month for non-blind persons
  •       no SGA limit for blind persons

You can apply for SSI benefits online or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday 7am to 7pm. Once you've applied, contact a disability attorney for help with your case.

When Does Depression Qualify for SSI?

According to the SSA, you can meet a disability listing for depression if you have five+ of these criteria:

  •       Depressed mood
  •       Diminished interest in almost all activities
  •       Appetite disturbance with change in weight
  •       Sleep disturbance
  •       Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation
  •       Decreased energy
  •       Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  •       Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  •       Thoughts of death or suicide

You must be able to medically prove that you meet this listing. Evidence of disability could include medical records as well as written doctors’ opinions.

Not everyone will meet a specific disability listing. If this is the case for you, you have to show proof that your condition prevents you from working in a field where you've worked before (Residual Functional Capacities, or RFC) within the past 15 years.

In most cases, a vocational expert will be brought in as a witness. They must state that you can't perform any employment you're qualified for un the U.S. economy

If your depression is not severe enough to qualify for SSI on its own, it may increase your chances of winning benefits when considered in combination with a physical disability due to decreased productivity and other factors.

Discuss how depression or other mental disorders can impact the limitations of a physical disability with your attorney.

What Else Should You Know about Mental Health Disorders and SSI?

A variety of mental health disorders qualify for SSI, in addition to depression. These include:

  •       Neurocognitive disorders
  •       Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  •       Bipolar and related disorders
  •       Anxiety      
  •       Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  •       Panic disorder or agoraphobia
  •       Autism spectrum disorder
  •       Neurodevelopmental disorders
  •       Eating disorders
  •       Trauma and stressor-related disorders
  •       Intellectual disorders
  •       Somatic symptoms and related disorders
  •       Personality and impulse-control disorders

Each of these must also be proven with medical documentation and show either extreme limitation in one, or marked limitation of two, of the following categories:

  •       Understand, remember, or apply information.
  •       Interact with others.
  •       Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
  •       Adapt or manage oneself.

Learn more about how the SSA classifies mental disorders for adults here.

As with depression, you may not meet one of these rigid categories, but you may be able to otherwise prove your condition is disabling with medical evidence.

When Should You Consult an SSI Attorney?

The right SSI attorney can guide you through each stage of your case and help you gather the necessary medical evidence to prove your disability.

They can also guide you through any necessary appeals. 

If your claim is initially denied, you and your attorney can seek levels of appeal, including:

  •       Reconsideration by the SSA
  •       Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
  •       Reconsideration by the Appeals Council
  •       Federal court hearing

If your Supplemental Security Income claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.

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