When Depression Is Severe

If your depression is severe, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits. There are two Social Security programs that provide these disability benefits: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The medical requirements for qualifying are the same under both programs and disability is determined by the same process.

Social Security Disability Insurance will pay benefits to you and to certain members of your family if you have worked long enough to be covered under Social Security and have paid into the system. Supplemental Security Income will pay you benefits based upon demonstrated financial need.

Definition of Disability

Social Security's definition of disability is based upon your inability to work. That's it. Period. You will be considered to be disabled if you can't do the work you previously did. Also, they get to determine whether your medical condition means you can or cannot adjust to other work. The burden of proof is on you. Additionally, your disability must be expected to last for at least a year or to result in your death.

If you are feeling stressed because your financial situation is not in the best shape right now, be prepared to accept the fact that Social Security assumes you have other sources of income to see you through your disability — these include workers' comp, insurance, and personal financial investments and savings accounts. Social Security can be a safety net, but remember, nets have holes in them.

Applying for Benefits

First, be sure to have all of your medical records available and in order. You may want to have a supportive family member help you with this. You can begin the process of applying for benefits by choosing one of these methods:

  • Go to the Social Security website to complete an online application

  • Call Social Security's toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213

  • Hearing-impaired individuals can call: TTY 1-800-325-0778

  • Call or visit your local Social Security Office (You'll find their number and address in the government pages of your local telephone directory.)


Two out of three applications for benefits are initially denied. If your initial application is denied, you may request a review of Social Security's decision. Be patient. Claims for disability benefits take more time to process than other types of Social Security claims. The process may take from three to five months.

You will need specific records and information in order to complete your application. Social Security provides a Disability Planner that tells you exactly how to go about the process of applying for benefits. You will need the following materials:

  • Your Social Security number and proof of your age.

  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and clinics that took care of you and the dates of your visits.

  • Names and dosages of all the medications you are taking.

  • Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers, that you already have in your possession.

  • Laboratory and test results.

  • A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did.

  • Your most recent W-2 form or, if you were self-employed, a copy of your federal tax return.

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