Obtaining disability benefits for Schizophrenia
Can I qualify for disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Schizophrenia?
Author Attorney Greg Reed:
Approximately 3.2 million Americans have schizophrenia, a mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others.
People with schizophrenia often lose touch with reality and some are totally unaware that they even have the disorder, making it difficult to treat. Schizophrenia commonly affects men and women between the ages of 16 and 30, but is rarely diagnosed before the age of 12.
The first signs of schizophrenia are often a change of friends, sleep problems, and isolating oneself, symptoms that can be confused with depression or other psychosomatic disorders. Other symptoms of schizophrenia vary in severity and include:
- Hallucinations – hearing voices or seeing things others cannot see
- Delusions – false beliefs that don’t change even when presented with conflicting facts
- Unusual or dysfunctional way of thinking
- Agitated body movements or catatonia
- Speaking in a flat, disconnected manner
- Showing little interest in everyday life
- Reduced expression of emotions
- Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
- Changes in memory or aspects of thinking
- Inability to understand information and make decisions
- Difficulty focusing and paying attention
- Trouble sustaining relationships
Though the cause of schizophrenia is unknown, scientists believe a combination of physical, genetic, psychological, and environmental factors can make a person more likely to develop the condition.
Schizophrenia tends to run in families – 10% of people with schizophrenia have a close relative with the disorder – but other factors could also contribute:
- Imbalances in brain chemistry
- Exposure to viruses
- Malnutrition before birth
- Problems with brain development before birth
- Mind-altering drugs taken during early adulthood
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Schizophrenia. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Before giving a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a doctor must first rule out other conditions such as a brain tumor or bipolar disorder.
There is no cure for schizophrenia, but the disorder can be managed with anti-psychotic medications, psychotherapy, self-management strategies and education. Learning coping skills can enable a person with schizophrenia to continue a normal routine of attending school or working. Though many people respond well to medication and are able to hold a job, many cannot work.
The Social Security Administration recognizes schizophrenia as an impairment in its Blue Book under Section 12.03 and has strict criteria you must meet:
- Medical documentation of one or more of the following:
- Delusions or hallucinations;
- Disorganized thinking (speech); or
- Grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia.
- Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
- Understand, remember, or apply information.
- Interact with others.
- Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
- Adapt or manage oneself.
- Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.
It is important to note that the Social Security Administration realizes that some people cannot satisfy the requirements of the listing because they live in highly protected and supervised situations, such as a hospital or clinic, that make their functional abilities appear better than they would be in real-life situations where the stress and demands of daily life is much greater.
Social Security is more interested in a person’s functional limitations than a specific psychotic diagnosis.
Some applicants who suffer from schizophrenia who do not meet the requirements of the listing are still unable to hold any job.
These applicants may not exhibit the stereotyped symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hearing voices, but they are unable to maintain organized thought patterns or have difficulty with social interactions. If an applicant can prove that their impairment is ongoing and is so severe it prevents them from performing even unskilled labor, they may qualify for SSI or SSDI on the basis of a medical-vocational allowance.
Although most people who apply for Social Security Disability Income under schizophrenia are eventually approved, the process is challenging and best done with the assistance of a qualified disability attorney.
Considering the range of difficulty with concentration, memory, and dysfunctional thought patterns a person with schizophrenia frequently experiences, they may not be capable of representing themselves. An experienced attorney who can obtain medical records and physician statements and handle appeals and hearings is much more likely to achieve a positive result.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Because of his extensive litigation experience Mr. Roach is board certified from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas trial lawyers association, has been active in the Austin Bar Association and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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