May 11, 2010

Schizophrenia & Social Security Disability Benefits

Mental illness, such as schizophrenia, can be disabling. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects how a person experiences reality. Schizophrenia must be diagnosed by a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or other clinician, and may be characterized by:

  • paranoia,
  • hallucinations,
  • bizarre delusions & perceptions,
  • lack of emotions or motivations, and
  • social and occupational dysfunction.

schizophrenia.JPGSchizophrenia is a complicated disorder that is commonly treated by antipsychotic drugs, which can alleviate symptoms in some patients, but not cure the disease. Persons with a serious mental illness are just as entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments as persons with a serious physical illness.

Since the criteria to qualify for Social Security disability benefits may be fairly complex, most Indiana claimants with schizophrenia elect to have a Social Security disability lawyer represent them in their disability claim. 

Schizophrenia is addressed in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Listing of Impairments, Section 12.03, Schizophrenic, Paranoid, and Other Psychotic Disorders. A disability claimant may qualify for disability benefits by either meeting or equaling the specifications of listing 12.03.  Stated in this listing, a disability applicant’s medical records must show the existence of intermittent or continuous:

  1. Delusions or hallucinations or
  2. Catatonic or other grossly disorganized behavior or
  3. A state of illogical thinking, incoherence, loosening of associations, or poverty of content of speech (associated with either a blunt, flat, or inappropriate display of mood or affect) or
  4. Emotional withdrawal and/or isolation.

For an Indiana disability claimant to satisfy the requirements of listing 12.03, their records must also indicate that at least two of the following apply: 

  1. Markedly restricted daily activities;
  2. Marked restrictions in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace;
  3. Marked restriction in the ability to maintain social functioning;
  4. Extended and repeated episodes of decompensation;

If a disability applicant does not qualify for disability on the basis of the above criteria, a disability claimant with schizophrenia may be approved for disability benefits if the claimant is able to prove the following:

A)  A medically documented history of a psychotic disorder (schizophrenia, paranoid, or other) that has lasted at least 2 years and has resulted in a limitation of the ability to do basic work activities.

B) The medical history must show the existence of repeated and extended episodes of decompensation or the existence of the inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement for at least one full year or the existence of a residual disease process whose effects are far-reaching enough that even a minimal increase in mental demands, or even a minimal change in environment, would be predicted to cause the individual to decompensate.

It is important for the disability claimant to continue seeing their doctors.  A psychiatrist or psychologist is the best type of doctor to write a report about your disability when it comes to schizophrenia. The doctor is a key person when a claimant is trying to prove their disability to the SSA.  A doctor’s report can carry more weight if your doctor knows you well, and has been treating you for a long time.  In addition, it is important for friends, family, and former employers to write letters and reports about the claimant. These people notice the things the claimant does or says that don’t fit in at anemployment environment.  Statements from the people the claimant knows best are important to the Social Security disability claim.  Observations from the disability claimant’s family can carry a lot of weight and make a big difference for the success of the claim.

Attorney Scott D. Lewis has experience with representing disability claimants with schizophrenia.  If you or a relative has a mental illness such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder, or another mental illness, you may be entitled to disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.   For a free consultation regarding your Social Security disability claim, call (317) 423-8888. 

Filed under:Qualifying Disabilities and Impairments
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