Depression Treatment: How Far Do You Need to Go to Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

Treatment for Depression and SSDI BenefitsDepression is a complicated medical condition. There are treatments available, but they are not always successful and may have significant side effects. If you suffer from clinical depression then you may have tried some, or all, of the potential treatments. You may not want to pursue further treatment for various reasons, but you may be concerned about whether the lack of treatment will impact your Social Security disability benefits.

How Depression Is Treated

Depression treatment may include medications, psychotherapy, and alternative treatments, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your medical team may recommend that you try one treatment at a time or more than one treatment concurrently. Below, is an overview of the different types of treatments that may be suggested to you:

  • Medication. Different medications are available to treat depression. These include SSRIs, SNRIs, atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants, MAOIs, and others. Some of these drugs require strict diets and some have significant side effects, and none of them are always completely effective.
  • Therapy. Psychotherapy treatment may be useful for some people who suffer from depression. Therapy involves speaking honestly with a licensed therapist (such as a social worker or psychologist). However, it is not always effective in eliminating the significant impact of depression on an individual’s life.
  • Alternative treatments. If medication and therapy are ineffective, then other treatment options may be considered. These may include hospitalizations, day programs, electroconvulsive therapy, or transcranial magnetic stimulation. Like medication and therapy, alternative treatments are not always effective.

The Social Security Administration is going to want to know which treatments you tried, how long you tried them, details about the impact of the treatment on your depression, and details about any side effects that you suffered from your prescribed treatments.

Exceptions to Getting Treatment

If you fail to follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan, then you may need to justify your lack of compliance to the Social Security Administration in order to be found eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Your refusal to comply with a prescribed treatment plan may be justified and may not interfere with your right to receive disability benefits if:

  • The treatment violates your religious beliefs. If this applies to you then you will need to share your religious affiliation with the Social Security Administration. You will also need to provide evidence that you are affiliated with a particular church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or other religious organization. Finally, you will need to provide evidence that the treatment conflicts with the official teachings or doctrine of your religion.
  • The treatment prescribed conflicts with other medical advice that you have received from a professional who is treating you for depression. Conflicting opinions may be enough justification to abstain from one provider’s treatment recommendations.
  • You cannot afford to pay for the treatment. If the Social Security Administration accepts this argument then the agency will consider whether there are no-cost or low-cost treatment options for you in addition to whether you have the means to pay for the treatment independently.
  • Failing to follow a treatment plan is a symptom of your depression or mental illness. The Social Security Administration will likely look for evidence from your doctor or therapist in order to determine if failing to follow the treatment plan is truly a symptom of your condition.

Before you present any of these arguments to the Social Security Administration, it is important to consult with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer.

Protecting the Social Security Disability Benefits You Have Earned

If you are struggling with depression and you and your doctors believe that your condition is permanently disabling, then it is important to protect your right to receive Social Security disability benefits. Your application may be complicated because the Social Security Administration is going to want specific information about your treatments, about why treatment did not work for you, or about why you refused treatment. 

An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can remove the stress of applying from your shoulders and work hard to get you the disability benefits that you deserve. To learn more, please read a free copy of our book, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim, and contact us directly for a free, no-obligation consultation and answers to your specific questions.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer
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