Can You Get Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Depression?

Sep 4, 2014

A federal employee considering his Thrift Savings Plan and Federal Disability Retirement

Depression, a mental health condition that affects millions worldwide, is not just a temporary state of feeling sad or down. It is a serious illness that can interfere significantly with a person’s daily life, including their ability to work. In the United States, federal workers grappling with severe depression may qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, providing them with much-needed financial support during this challenging time in their lives. Mental health conditions, like depression, can qualify for Federal Disability Retirement as long as it is impacting your ability to perform your federal job.

Depression Can Be a Debilitating Condition

A “psychiatric disease” such as major clinical depression is a medical condition that may qualify a worker to receive federal disability retirement benefits – assuming the worker meets all other requirements. It is important for a worker to recognize the signs of this disease.

According to, symptoms of depression include not only sad, empty and unhappy feelings but also:

  • Outbursts of anger and frustration
  • Loss of interest in everyday life activities
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue and loss of energy (making it difficult to handle tasks)
  • Appetite changes (eating too little or eating too much)
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, make decisions or remember items
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is crucial to get medical care and treatment without delay. If left untreated, depression can be a dangerous condition.

Is It Difficult to Obtain Federal Disability Benefits for Depression?

Many workers may think that it is more difficult to obtain federal disability retirement benefits due to a psychiatric disease than it is for a physical condition. This is not the case.

If you suffer from a mental health condition such as depression, and your claim is handled properly, you should be well-positioned to obtain the benefits you have earned and deserve. In this sense, depression is not unlike any other condition that may prompt a worker to seek federal disability retirement benefits.

You must show the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that you suffer from depression (diagnosed by a medical professional) that, for a period of at least 12 months, prevents you from doing even one of your former job duties. The connection between your depression and your ability to do the work must be clear and documented.

Keep in mind: Even though your work environment may have triggered your depression, you do not need to establish that your condition is work-related in order to be eligible for federal disability retirement benefits.

Take Mental Health Seriously

Unfortunately, many people dismiss their own signs of depression as merely having a case of “the blues.” When the condition impairs a worker’s ability to do his or her job, the worker may actually develop enhanced feelings of shame or worthlessness that further the spiral into depression.

This is why it is dangerous to avoid getting immediate medical treatment. Depression is a serious medical condition. If you believe that you are suffering from depression, please give it the serious attention that it merits.

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