It is possible for individuals to receive disability benefits because of depression. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers applicants with mental illnesses using the same eligibility guidelines as those with physical disabilities. They recognize that severe depression can render a person unable to be gainfully employed. However, many people with this condition are able to support themselves financially, so not everyone with depression qualifies for disability benefits. Each application is considered on an individual basis.
There are four different criteria used to determine whether you're eligible for disability. Your medical and employment histories will be reviewed in detail to figure out whether you meet the requirements. You must earn less than the maximum allowed income, which is $980 per month in 2009. SSA uses a medical checklist to assess whether your depression can be considered disabling. They also determine whether it's severe enough to interfere with the ability to work. The last requirement is that you're unable to sustain employment in any type of work, not just the kinds of jobs you most recently held.
The first step to take to get disability is to fill out an application. You can do this online at the Social Security Administration's website. If you need assistance, you can make an appointment to apply at a local SSA office. After the application is submitted, you'll be contacted for an interview that can take place either over the phone or in person. Additional paperwork that needs to be filled out will be sent in the mail. It's helpful to have a loved one support you through this process and double-check everything you submit.
There's no way to know for sure how long it will take for your application to be approved or denied. You shouldn't expect to get an answer for at least a couple of months, but it usually takes longer. If you've received disability for depression in the past, however, it will probably be easier and faster to get approved again.
If you used to work before suffering from depression, you might be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. Benefit amounts in this program are based on how much you earned and how long you worked in the past. If you were poor for a long time before being disabled, you're more likely to qualify for Supplemental Security Income. As of 2009, the maximum benefit for an individual in this program is $674 per month. That amount may be higher if you have dependents.
You have the right to appeal multiple times if your application is denied. The first step is to have the decision reconsidered. If that's denied, you can have a judge hear your case. Be aware that this process can become very long and drawn-out. In some cases, individuals are approved for disability years after they initially applied. The good news is that most people who continue appealing do eventually receive some form of benefits.