Is a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia Enough to Qualify for Social Security Disability?
Parmele Law Firm, P.C.
By Ashley Baine, Attorney
Schizophrenia is a very serious psychological disorder. It 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 but I can assure you as a disability attorney in Joplin, MO, that as serious as schizophrenia is, a diagnosis alone will not qualify a person 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 someone who actually treats in that field.
The next step when it comes to schizophrenia is determining how much it affects the person’s functioning despite prescribed medical treatment. If a person is having significant issues with hallucinations or paranoia, but would likely improve with treatment, they will not qualify for benefits. 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 compliant with taking medications. 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. They also tend to have math exercises to test you 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 train of thought.
This is why 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. It also allows the possibility of getting a medical opinion from your treating provider regarding your functioning, which could easily make the difference in being approved. If Social Security finds the person’s schizophrenia is severe, they will next determine if it would qualify for the medical listing.
In order to qualify for the listing, a person has to have medically documented findings that are continuous or intermittent of at least one of four scenarios. The first scenario is delusions or hallucinations. The second scenario is catatonic or other significant disorganized behavior. The third scenario is incoherence, loosening of associations, illogical thinking, or poverty of content of speech in addition to a blunt, flat or inappropriate affect. The last scenario is 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. A period of decompensation for example would be a hospitalization for a ninety-six hour stay.
Even if the medical evidence does not quite match up with those requirements, Social Security will still consider it along with any other medical conditions you have to decide whether they will keep you from performing 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.
MO Supreme Court Rule 4-7.2 “The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past results are no guarantee.