If you are suffering from depression and it is impacting your ability to work, you may qualify for disability benefits based on your condition.  This article will discuss the principal issues to consider when filing a claim for disability benefits based on depression, and key considerations to keep in mind as you navigate the claim process.

Is depression a disability?

Depressive disorders are classified in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).  The DSM-V recognizes various severity levels and sub-sets of depressive disorders, including depressive disorders due to another medical condition.  While many people with depression can maintain their level of functionality, others cannot.  In fact, depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States.  Approximately 27% of people diagnosed with depression report significant difficulties with work and their daily activities.  If your depression is interfering with your ability to work and complete your day-to-day activities, you may have a disability for which you can seek disability benefits.

Can you qualify for disability benefits for depression?

If your depression is interfering with your ability to perform your job or report to work on a regular basis, you may qualify for disability benefits based on your depression.  Although every policy defines disability differently, most short- and long-term disability policies initially define disability as the inability to perform the material duties of your occupation due to a psychiatric and/or medical condition. After a period of typically 12, 24, or 36 months, the definition of disability often changes, and the insurance company will be considering whether your condition prevents you from performing the material duties of any other occupation for which you are reasonably qualified.  Common symptoms of depression that may impact your ability to work include fatigue, energy loss, impaired sleep, decreased motivation, anhedonia, weight or appetite disturbance, and mental confusion or distractibility.

How much will my disability benefits be for depression?

The amount of your disability benefits is typically based on a percentage of your pre-disability monthly income, such as 60% or 66.67%.  If you received bonuses and/or commissions as part of your compensation, that may be excluded from the definition of monthly income, but it depends on the terms of your specific plan.  Other plans, particularly individual disability insurance policies, provide a defined benefit amount based on your pre-disability earnings.

How long will my disability benefits last for depression?

While most disability plans pay benefits for so long as you remain unable to work until you reach normal retirement age, disability benefits for substance use disorders and other mental illnesses, including depression, are often limited to a shorter payment period up to a maximum of 24 or 36 months.  Nevertheless, your disability benefits cannot be limited based on depression or any other mental illness if you have a co-morbid medical condition that is also disabling.  If that is the case, it is critical that you advise the insurance company of your co-morbid medical condition, that condition as well.  In addition, some plans do not include certain mental health conditions or cognitive disorders in their lists of conditions subject to the limitation.  It is important you understand the particular terms and limitations contained in your plan.

What if my claim for disability benefits for depression is denied?

If your claim for disability benefits is denied, you have options.  You will likely have the opportunity to submit an appeal to the insurance company.  As part of your appeal, you can submit additional evidence detailing the severity of your depression and your treatment regimen.  Such evidence can include pharmaceutical records, psychotherapy notes, group therapy records, and neuropsychological evaluation reports.  If the insurance company still refuses to overturn its denial of your claim on appeal, you will then have the option to file a lawsuit in court for the benefits due.

If you suffer from depression and are considering filing a claim for disability benefits, it is important that you consult an expert, like the attorneys at DeBofsky Law, who can advise you about your plan’s specific terms and limitations.  The attorneys at DeBofsky Law are here to help you navigate the complicated process of applying for disability benefits so you can focus on what matters most – your health.

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