SCHIZOPHRENIA AND DISABILITY
WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?
Schizophrenia is a mental impairment that causes a person to seem out of touch with reality. People with a schizophrenia diagnosis may also hear voices or sounds that are not there. Likewise, they may see things that other people cannot see. If someone is seeing things that aren’t really there, then they are hallucinating. For example, a person with Schizophrenia may see the walls moving in a room. Or, they may say they hear voices constantly talking to them and telling them to act in a certain way. Some people with schizophrenia have catatonic behavior, a split personalty, or anti-social behavior.
Likewise, the voices may tell them to do things that may not be healthy. Sometimes, they hear voices that tell them they are not a good person. Additionally, some people believe that they receive messages from the TV. Some hear voices coming from the radio or even traffic signs and license plates. These psychotic symptoms often make people feel paranoid. A person with Schizophrenia may feel like others are out to get them or are talking about them. These are false belief, but to the person with this mental condition, it seems very real.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that can prevent you from working. If you cannot work, you should apply for disability benefits. There are two kinds of disability benefits you can apply for through the SSA. The first of these is Social Security Disability benefits or SSD. Sometimes, it is also called Title II benefits. The second of these is Supplemental Security Income or SSI.
WHAT CAUSES SCHIZOPHRENIA?
Schizophrenia’s cause is not known. However, a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain chemistry may play a role in the mental disorder. Schizophrenia symptoms are characterized by disorganized speech and odd behavior. Also, people with this mental condition don’t want to participate in daily activities.
An individual with Schizophrenia may also have difficulty with concentration and memory. The treatment for Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders may be lifelong. Treatment often involves medication, psychotherapy, and specialty care services given by mental health professionals. More information about these disorders can be found at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
IS SCHIZOPHRENIA A DISABILITY?
The short answer is “yes, it can be.” The symptoms of Schizophrenia can be so severe that it stops you from working. Even if you take medication, it may not be enough to control your symptoms. If you cannot work due to your mental health condition and your symptoms are going to prevent you from working for longer than 12 months, then you should apply for SSD and SSI disability benefits.
HOW TO PROVE DISABILITY IF YOU HAVE SCHIZOPHRENIA
If you are unable to work due to Schizophrenia or a psychotic disorder, you may qualify for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits. The SSA states psychotic disorders should be evaluated under listing 12.03. For example, the SSA considers psychotic disorders that include delusions, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there. Visual hallucinations occur when you see things that aren’t really there. If you hear things that are not there, then you have aural hallucinations.
The SSA uses Listing 12.03 to define the symptoms of a psychotic disorder that qualifies for disability benefits. Below is listing 12.03, which outlines the symptoms you must document to prove disability. Listing 12.03 can be found on the SSA website and is also discussed below.
LISTING 12.03 FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA AND OTHER PSYCHOTIC DISORDERS
Below is SSA’s listing for Schizophrenia. To meet the listing, you must have all of the elements under each category. These elements need to be written in your medical records and confirmed by your doctor. Preferably, you have a psychiatrist who is treating you for Schizophrenia. If you do not have a treating provider, see our list of free and low cost providers.
12.03 Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders (see 12.00B2), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:
- Medical documentation of one or more of the following:
- Delusions or hallucinations;
- Disorganized thinking (speech); or
- Grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia.
- Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
- Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
- Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
- Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
- Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).
- Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).
Your Schizophrenia symptoms must be very severe in order to meet Listing 12.03. As you can see, typically, a person with schizophrenia has spent time in the hospital and getting mental health treatment. Usually, treatment involves medication, as well as counseling. In order to be found eligible for benefits, your symptoms must be severe enough to prevent you from attending school and working. Also, with severe Schizophrenia you would not be able to go to social functions, like Church, on a regular basis. Additionally, you may not be able to complete simple activities of daily living. Things like cooking, cleaning, or doing your own laundry are simply too difficult.
FREE AND LOW COST MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
If you have Schizophrenia, you are going to need to seek treatment from a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is the kind of doctor that can prescribe medication for mental issues. You should also see a counselor or psychologist. The evidence that you need to obtain for the SSA will be the medical opinion of your counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other medical provider.
In addition, you will need to obtain your providers progress notes. Progress notes are the notes that your doctor or counselor writes when you visit them. That is the medical evidence that the SSA reviews to see if you have a disability. They will read through the progress notes and your doctor’s opinion to see if you qualify for benefits under listing 12.03.
If you do not have a psychiatrist or counselor, call the resources that are available under your insurance. If you do not have mental health insurance, this website contains a list of free and low cost healthcare resources. You can start with our list and if these providers can’t help you, ask them who can. If you live in Nevada, then go to Nevada’s Free and Low Cost Mental Health Providers. If you live in Utah, then go to Utah’s Free and Low Cost Mental Health Providers. In addition to ongoing treatment, if you need access to inpatient or outpatient psychiatric services, then these lists will help you too.
TREATMENT FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA
Individual psychotherapy. A therapist or psychiatrist can teach you how to deal with your thoughts and behaviors. You can learn about your illness and learn how to tell the difference between what’s real and what is not real. This can help you with paranoid feelings. It can also help you manage your interactions with other people. Learn more about the different types of psychotherapy.
Coordinated specialty care (CSC). This type of case is usually for people who are experiencing a psychotic episode for the first time. It’s a team approach that combines medication and talk therapy. It may also include employment services. Additionally, this kind of care includes your family whenever possible. The idea behind this kind of care is to catch and halt your disease in its earliest stages. Research shows that people with schizophrenia who get early treatment have the best results dealing with their disease over time.
Assertive community treatment (ACT). This type of treatment includes personal services to help people with schizophrenia. For example, you may need help taking your medications or interacting with other people in a work or home setting. ACT professionals help you handle problems on a daily basis.
CONTACT US FOR HELP WITH SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CASE
If you need help proving you deserve disability benefits, contact Cannon Disability Law. We will represent you without charging an attorney fee up front. Also, we will provide a free consultation. Likewise, we do not change an attorney fee unless we win your case.
It is always our goal to win disability benefits for our clients. In order to win benefits, you will need mental health treatment. You will need to attend therapy and try medications to help your mental symptoms. Additionally, you will need a mental health record. This means you must see a doctor or counselor on a weekly or monthly basis. Ongoing treatment records are crucial to winning your case. So is the supporting opinion or your treating doctor. We have free and low cost mental health sources on this website.
You will also need an attorney to help you prepare and win your disability case. Our attorneys and representatives will help you throughout the disability process. We can help you fill out your forms or review them for you. Our specialists can help you file your online application and appeal a denial from the SSA.
Likewise, we will also represent you at hearing before a disability judge. Prior to your hearing, we will make sure the judge has your medical records. Then, we will meet with you to talk about your hearing. We will prepare you to answer the judge’s questions. We represent clients in many states. Our main office is in Utah. However, we work for clients in Nevada, Idaho, and California. In the past 30 years, we have won 20,000 disability cases. Put our experience to work for you. Contact the Cannon Disability legal team. Get your free consultation today.