Can You Get Social Security Disability for Schizophrenia?

People who suffer from a schizophrenia disability may be able to qualify for social security benefits. 

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that makes it difficult for sufferers to think logically. People with schizophrenia also have difficulty interacting with others socially and controlling their behaviors. This disability is due to having difficulty differentiating between reality and delusions.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, you may be wondering about financial assistance. Is the person able to work? Some people respond well to medication and treatment and live relatively normal lives. Others with schizophrenia are unable to hold down a job. Does this mean they can qualify for social security disability with schizophrenia?

To better understand your options, it’s essential to speak with a disability claims advocate. At GAR Disability Advocates, we routinely help people who are unable to work due to various illnesses and conditions. In some cases of schizophrenia, SSI or SSDI benefits are indeed available.

schizophrenia ssi

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia typically doesn’t show up overnight. Symptoms can start appearing over many months, or even years, until someone becomes completely disabled. There is no standard age onset, either. Schizophrenia can begin to show in early adulthood, later in life, or even in childhood.

There are four main types of schizophrenia:

  • Paranoid Schizophrenia, which includes anger, anxiety, and a tendency to be argumentative;
  • Disorganized Schizophrenia, which involves repetitive and childish behaviors, incoherent speech, and laughter that’s inappropriate;
  • Catatonic Schizophrenia, where sufferers have rigid muscles, negative emotions, are often agitated, cannot take care of themselves, and have a decreased ability to feel pain; and
  • Undifferentiated Schizophrenia, which combines symptoms of multiple Schizophrenia types.

 Doctors cannot definitively say why people get Schizophrenia, but it’s believed that a combination of genetics and environment play a role. This adds to the challenge of qualifying for disability benefits. 

What Qualifies as Schizophrenia Disability?

Someone doesn’t qualify for disability benefits simply by being diagnosed with schizophrenia. They need to prove that their symptoms keep them from working, despite taking antipsychotic medication.

Proving symptoms can be complicated since there are no biological tests for schizophrenia. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has set forth qualifications that disability applicants must meet. The symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations or delusions; 
  • Catatonic or disorganized behavior; 
  • Withdrawal from social interaction and emotional isolation; or
  • A pattern of illogical or incoherent thinking.

Some patients require hospitalization, behavioral therapies, and prescriptions for antipsychotic medications. With the right environment, many people can lead a relatively functional life. However, some people will never be able to function normally and independently.

Eligibility for Social Security Benefits Using Diagnostic Criteria and Limitations

Once you or a loved one meet the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, you have to prove that you suffer limitations due to the disability to qualify for benefits. To start, you will need documentation from a medical provider supporting your schizophrenia disability.

Social Security has two main methods that they use to determine eligibility based on how limiting your disability is.

Method one looks at whether you have an extreme limitation, or a ‘marked’ limitation, in your daily life. A ‘marked’ limitation is one that is classified as worse than moderate, but not as high as extreme. Determining where you rank is subjective and is determined by Social Security medical providers reviewing the documentation in your application.

Using the first method of eligibility, you must demonstrate one extreme limitation or two ‘marked’ limitations in certain areas:

  • Severe problems with social functioning, meaning you have trouble interacting with other people;
  • Severe limitation in your ability to handle day-to-day activities in your life, including personal hygiene, dressing appropriately for work, recognizing hazards, etc.;
  • Serious inability to concentrate or focus on your tasks; or
  • Serious inability to learn new things, remember tasks or apply new information to work-related tasks.

If these limitations don’t apply to your situation, there may be another option for eligibility.

Under the second option, applicants must have medical documentation showing their disability has seriously limited their ability to perform basic tasks and their ability to work for a minimum of two years. In addition, you must be able to show one of the following:

  • You can’t function outside of a rigid or highly supportive living arrangement;
  • You don’t have the capacity to handle any change in mental demands or a change of environment; or
  • You’ve had repeated episodes of decompensation, which is the inability to psychologically cope with stressful situations.

Medical-Vocational Allowance for Schizophrenia Disability

If you are unable to qualify for benefits based on Social Security’s criteria, there may be one more option. Medical-vocational allowance is for people whose disability is serious enough that they cannot handle even unskilled work. Unskilled work is comprised of tasks that require you to have limited education or training.

In order to qualify under a medical-vocational allowance, you need to present a significant amount of medical evidence. This is one situation where utilizing a schizophrenia disability advocate is important.

How Often Are Schizophrenia Disability Claims Approved?

Given the broad range of schizophrenia symptoms, you might assume getting an approval is relatively easy. However, it’s quite the opposite. Because the symptoms are so broad, it leaves much open for interpretation. This means the person making the decision may or may not interpret your medical documentation favorably.

In cases involving mental impairments like schizophrenia, the decision-making process may seem rather arbitrary. If your claim is denied initially, please understand that you are not alone. In fact, a majority of claims are denied outright during the initial application process.

The good news is that many people are ultimately awarded benefits upon appeal. If you can wait out the appeals process, you are more likely to be successful.

Seek the Services of a Disability Claims Advocate 

When you utilize the services of a professional schizophrenia disability claims advocate, it can make the application process run smoother. If you or someone you love received a denial, GAR Disability Advocates can improve your chances of getting approved for schizophrenia disability benefits. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.

Need Help Getting Your Disability Claim Approved?

If you or a loved one need help getting your disability claim approved, contact a GAR Disability Advocate today for a free consultation.

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