Is Depression a Disability? How to Qualify for SSDI

Depression that prevents you from working can qualify you for work accommodations and SSDI benefits.
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Written by Davin Dearth
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Edited by Dalia Ramirez
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers depression to be a disability as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Social Security Administration. Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. Accessed Jul 31, 2023.
. You may qualify for SSDI benefits and work accommodations if depression prevents you from either doing the type of work that you previously did or adjusting to other work.

Here’s what to know about what kinds of depression qualify for SSDI benefits and work accommodations and how to apply.

Work accommodations for depression

Under the ADA, you have the right to reasonable accommodations to help you do your job

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights. Accessed Jul 31, 2023.
. Some examples of possible accommodations include:

  • Altered break and work schedules.

  • Specific shift assignments.

  • Quiet office space or changes to create a quiet work environment, such as noise-canceling headphones, room dividers and soundproofing. 

  • Changes in supervisory methods.

  • Permission to work from home.

It’s illegal for your employer to fire you due to a mental health condition, but make sure to ask for accommodations as soon as possible before your job performance suffers.

SSDI benefits for depression

The SSA pays disability benefits to people with qualifying conditions to replace the income they are unable to earn.

  • The amount of money that you will receive each month is based on your previous earnings and how much you’ve paid toward Social Security taxes.

  • Disabled workers receive an average monthly benefit of $1,483, according to a March 2023 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

    Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Policy Basics: Social Security Disability Insurance. Accessed Jul 31, 2023.

  • The maximum SSDI payment that someone can earn in 2023 is $3,627 a month. 

What type of depression qualifies for disability?

Depressive, bipolar and related disorders are on the SSA’s Listing of Impairments and are considered disabilities that can prevent substantial gainful employment. In other words, if your depression is severe enough that it prevents you from working and operating at your full capacity, then there is a reasonable chance that Social Security will consider it to be a disability. Here are the standards to qualify:

Medical documentation of five or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Depressed mood.

  2. Diminished interest in almost all activities.

  3. Appetite disturbance with change in weight.

  4. Sleep disturbance.

  5. Observable agitation or retardation.

  6. Decreased energy.

  7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.

  8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking.

  9. Thoughts of death or suicide.

Also, extreme limitations in one of the following areas of mental functioning:

  1. Understanding, remembering or applying information.

  2. Interacting with others.

  3. Concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace.

  4. Adapting or managing yourself.

Or proof that your depression is “serious and persistent,” which the SSA considers as lasting for at least two years. You’ll also need evidence of the following:

  1. Medical treatment that is ongoing and helps reduce the symptoms.

  2. A limited ability to adapt to changes in your environment or additional demands.

You’ll also need to have earned enough “work credits” to be considered insured for SSDI benefits. This typically means that you worked for at least five out of the last 10 years, though younger workers can qualify with fewer credits.

How to apply for SSDI

  • You can apply for SSDI online, through your local Social Security office or by phone. 

  • You’ll need to gather information on your medical and work histories.

  • After filing your application, you have the right to be informed of the SSA’s decision and the right to appeal that decision within 60 days. It normally takes around six months to receive an initial decision from the SSA.

How likely is it that the SSA will approve my SSDI application?

An average of 21% of applicants are awarded SSDI benefits with their initial application

Social Security Administration. Outcomes of Applications for Disability Benefits. Accessed Jul 31, 2023.
. After appeals, an average of 31% of applicants are awarded benefits.

Read more about whether these conditions may qualify for disability benefits.

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Frequently asked questions

If your SSDI application is approved, then your disability attorney will be paid 25% or $7,200 of your retroactive benefits, whichever amount is less. Disability lawyers work on a contingency fee, meaning they only get paid if you win your claim. Fees can’t exceed 25% of past-due benefits or $7,200, whichever is less. However, the fee cap is expected to increase to $9,200 this fall, the Social Security Administration announced in March 2024.

There is an eight-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits, meaning you’ll receive your first benefit in the ninth full month after the date that SSA finds your disability began. If you were previously disabled within the last five years, the waiting period is waived.

You are allowed to return to work while receiving SSDI benefits. Social Security has special rules and several programs that allow recipients to work and still receive benefits, including the Ticket to Work program and a nine-month Trial Work Period.

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