Can You File a Disability Claim for Schizophrenia?

  1. Social Security
  2. Can You File a Disability Claim for Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a very serious psychological disorder that can affect the way a person interprets the world around them. Many schizophrenics experience either visual or audio hallucinations, meaning they see things or hear voices that are not there. A schizophrenic may also feel people are staring at them or talking about them when they are out in public. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you may want to file a disability claim. As serious as this condition is, a diagnosis alone will not qualify a person for disability benefits.

How Medical Conditions Qualify for Disability Benefits

Most medical conditions require more than just the diagnosis to qualify for disability benefits. The diagnosis by an acceptable medical source is the first step. An acceptable medical source is a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist when it comes to a mental condition. Social Security will also typically accept a diagnosis from a family doctor but will give more weight to a specialist.

The next step when it comes to schizophrenia is determining how much it affects the person’s functioning despite prescribed medical treatment. A person experiencing hallucinations or paranoia that would likely improve with treatment may not qualify for benefits.

After You File a Disability Claim

Social Security will determine whether you are receiving prescribed medical treatment by getting your medical records and looking at the office visit notes indicating whether you are complying with your doctor’s orders. They will also look at reported symptoms and mental status exams by medical providers. A mental status exam will note whether you are oriented to person, place and time. The tests may include math exercises to test your concentration and word exercises to test your memory. In addition, the medical provider will typically note what your mood or appearance was like and your general train of thought.

Regular medical treatment is important because it can show whether the person would improve with adequate functioning with treatment or will still struggle to perform competitive work. You may also get a medical opinion from your treating provider regarding your functioning, which could make the difference you file a disability claim. If Social Security finds the person’s schizophrenia is severe, they will next determine if the condition qualifies as a disability.

According to Social Security’s List of Impairments, a person must have medically documented findings that are continuous or intermittent of at least one of four scenarios:

  • delusions or hallucinations;
  • catatonic or other significant disorganized behavior;
  • incoherence, loosening of associations, illogical thinking, or poverty of content of speech in addition to a blunt, flat or inappropriate affect; or
  • emotional withdrawal or isolation.

In addition, the schizophrenia has to significantly affect the person’s ability to perform at least two of the following: activities of daily living: dealing with other people; maintaining concentration, persistence or pace or repeated periods of decompensation for extended time. For example, a ninety-six hour hospitalization might prove decompensation.

Sometimes the medical evidence does not quite match up with Social Security’s requirements. However, they may consider schizophrenia along with any other medical conditions you have to decide whether you are unable to perform competitive employment.

The important key is to get treatment and report ongoing symptoms from your schizophrenia. In addition, it helps to get into a support group such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and be with other people who understand how it feels to have a mental illness.

Knowing When to File a Disability Claim Is Critical

You may be struggling with your illness and an inability to work. It may be best to speak with a disability attorney as soon as possible so you will be ready to file your disability claim when the time is right.

If you have any questions about a Social Security claim, contact a disability attorney at any of our offices across Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois. Call (618) 266-4038 or submit the Contact Form on our website for a free consultation.

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