Schizophrenia and Social Security Disability

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Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that afflicts over 3 million Americans. Symptoms may include paranoid delusions, compulsive and disorganized behavior, mental confusion, agitation and aggressive behavior. Without the proper medical treatment, those with this disorder may pose a threat to themselves or others.

As a disability attorney, I am often contacted by the relatives of the person with schizophrenia in order to help them apply for his or her Social Security disability benefits. A common refrain I hear is that their loved one needs anti-psychotic medication in order to function, but without money or health insurance he or she is unable to get the help they need.

There are a number of ways to prevail on a claim for Social Security disability for schizophrenia. One is to present credible evidence of specific severe symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, emotional isolation and social withdrawal that cause the client to have at least two of the following limitations:

  • The inability to engage in normal activities of daily living;
  • The inability to function socially;
  • The inability to focus or stay on task; and/or
  • A history of recurring, lengthy episodes of worsening symptoms.

Another way to prove disability for this condition is to present medical evidence establishing that the condition:

  • Has lasted at least two years, and
  • Has had a negative impact on his or her ability to work, and
  • Has impaired his or her ability to function in the world without a great deal of outside support, and
  • Has caused the individual to suffer episodes of decompensation (increase of symptoms and loss of function).

These cases can be very challenging, and the active participation of family members or loved ones in the claims process can be essential. If approved for Social Security disability or SSI, in addition to receiving monthly benefits, my client will be covered for psychiatric treatment under Medicare or Medicaid. Therefore, these cases can be rewarding as well.


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