Those suffering depression may be wondering if they can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
The answer is yes, but each case is different depending on the unique circumstances.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
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 give you the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
This article will explore the following topics:
- What Is SSI?
- When Does Depression Qualify for SSI?
- What Else Should You Know about Mental Health Disorders and SSI?
- When Should You Consult an SSI Attorney?
What Is SSI?
SSI is a needs-based benefits program for those who are 65 or older, or are blind or disabled at any age, and who have limited income and resources.
Those who qualify for SSI typically also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as Medicaid.
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) determines 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.
In 2020, the maximum monthly SSI amount you can receive is:
- $783 per individual or
- $1,175 per couple
Substantia Gainful Activity, or SGA, is a limit to how much you can earn in gainful employment. Exceeding this limit can disqualify you from receiving SSI benefits.
For those seeking SSI in 2020, the SGA limits are:
- $1,260 per month for non-blind persons
- no SGA limit for blind persons
Discuss in detail all employment and regular activities with the SSA or your disability attorney, and how your condition(s) impact these activities.
You can apply for SSI benefits online or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday 7am to 7pm, according to the SSA website.
When Does Depression Qualify for SSI?
According to the SSA, you can meet a disability listing for depression if you have five or more 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 must prove that your condition prevents you from doing the physical or mental activities (Residual Functional Capacities, or RFC) required of your past employment—up to 15 years ago.
In most cases, you must also prove you can’t perform any employment you’re qualified for in the U.S. economy, as determined by a vocational expert.
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
- 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.
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
At the hearing level, attorneys can make legal opening remarks, question you as the claimant, respond to inquiries from the judge, and also cross-examine the vocational expert in your hearing. They will also help you prepare for these hearings and gather the necessary medical documents.
In almost all cases, Social Security claimants won’t pay an up-front attorney’s fee. Instead, their attorney will only be paid a percentage of their initial back pay of benefits, according to a national federal standard, if they win their claim.
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 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-4978.