Filing for Social Security disability benefits for depression can seem overwhelming. This is true simply by the fact that depression can make everyday tasks feel insurmountable. On top of that, filing for benefits requires a lot of paperwork on your part.
Understanding this paperwork’s purpose, and what’s expected of you, will help alleviate some of the pressure to file correctly and win your benefits.
When your benefits application is being reviewed, one of the most important pieces of paperwork you’ll file is this:
The Adult Function Report—or form SSA 3373.
Once you file for benefits, usually online or in person at your local Social Security field office, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you form SSA 3373 to document the nature and details of your disability. Essentially, they want to know how your condition impacts your ability to function and to perform a job.
The two main benefits programs you’ll file an Adult Function Report for include:
Adult Function Reports: The Basics
An Adult Function Report requires you to document intimate details about your depression to prove a disability. This is an important part of your benefits review process and should be carefully and thoroughly considered.
With depression—or any disability—there are times you can do tasks but only with certain coping strategies. Or else you might have after-effects that negatively impact you.
The SSA takes these factors into consideration. It’s not necessary to include only absolutes such as a task you can never perform, or a task you can always perform. The more detail you can include about how your depression affects you that you can include, the better.
Once you’ve completed the form, it should be returned to your local Social Security field office.
If you’re having trouble filling out the form . . .
The SSA allows caregivers or family members to help fill out forms, in some instances. However, keep in mind that you must not provide any false or misleading information about your disability or daily activities.
Social services or disability advocates in your area may also be able to assist you with your paperwork.
If you have questions about this form or how to file, you can always call the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Or you may contact your local field office directly.
Another option is to discuss the form with your disability attorney, who will have a working professional knowledge about what the SSA is looking for in your AFR.
Filing for SSDI or SSI with Depression
One of the main challenges for those with depression is that mental disabilities can be more difficult to prove than physical ones. It’s not that psychological conditions can be any less of an impairment to your daily life, but rather that expressing and medically proving your depression disability to the SSA can pose a challenge.
For instance, if you had a lower back disability, you’d be able to point to straightforward physical limitations to your daily life. These could include pain, lack of mobility, limitations in range of motion, inability to lift heavy objects, and so on.
You could point to medical evidence such as physical therapy, imaging like CT scans and myelograms, and other forms of testing and diagnoses by your primary physician and specialists.
While there’s no physical evidence of depression, per se, you can still prove the disabling nature of your condition.
Take heart in the fact that the SSA considers not only physical limitations of a disability, but also things like your ability to focus, concentrate, and interact with other people—so long as you can express this clearly in your paperwork.
From their disability listing, here are some of the factors the SSA will look for in proving your depression disability:
- 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; or
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
There may be other factors considered as well, based on the listing or other proof of your condition’s limitations.
The AFR will ask intimate details about your personal life, such as personal hygiene, preparing meals, house and yard work, social activities, and more. This will give ample time to discuss the nature of your depression and how it prevents you from being able to work, even with medication.
Here are a few tips to consider when filing your AFR for depression:
- Consider how depression has changed your life and how you cope with daily tasks.
- What are you physically able to do, but often cannot do due to lost motivation?
- Include things you can only do inconsistently due to your depression.
- Include how you’ve needed to cope with depression to complete tasks.
- Discuss negative side effects of medications you’ve taken or are taking, or if your limitations exist despite taking medications such as antidepressants.
Essentially, approach documenting your depression as you would any other disability. Mainly, you should do your best to be honest and thorough to prove your disability.
A Social Security Attorney Can Help
Social Security claimants typically don’t pay an up-front attorney’s fee for their claims. Instead, they pay a set percentage of their initial earnings, should they win, and pay nothing if they lose.
Thus, consulting an attorney early on can grant you a crucial resource throughout your claim. An attorney can help you fill out your AFR with the right information, so you can maximize your chances of winning your claim.
Should your claim be denied, an attorney will advocate on your behalf and guide you through appeals hearings and other steps of your case.
Coping with a depression disability can be an overwhelming challenge. But with the right information and representation, you’ll have the best chance of winning the benefits you deserve.
If your Social Security claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-7449.