Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that currently affects over two million men and women in the United States. It is considered to be a chronic, or lifelong, mental illness that results in delusions or hallucinations, paranoia, extreme mood swings or personality shifts, and other behavioral issues such as an inability to maintain social relationships. For many individuals, schizophrenia is an undiagnosed and untreated disorder that significantly impairs their daily functions. At Kantrovitz & Associates, our Social Security attorneys have experience working with Massachusetts individuals affected by a wide variety of disorders to apply for SSDI benefits.Establishing an SSDI Application Based on Schizophrenia
The SSA currently recognizes schizophrenia as an impairment that can qualify a person for disability benefits under certain circumstances. However, a basic diagnosis of this condition is not sufficient. Instead, the SSA has identified certain symptoms that schizophrenia patients must experience to qualify for SSDI under the relevant impairment Listing, Section 12.03. Applicants with schizophrenia must show that they suffer from delusions or hallucinations, catatonic or grossly impaired motor behaviors, incoherent or illogical thinking, or emotional isolation and withdrawal from social interactions.
Additionally, the applicant must prove that as a result of these symptoms, he or she has been seriously limited in his or her ability to do two of the following:
- Engage in normal daily activities;
- Function socially;
- Focus on a task; or
- Avoid lengthy and recurrent symptomatic episodes.
Unlike certain physical ailments that may qualify for disability, the symptoms the SSA has identified for schizophrenia are highly subjective and difficult to pinpoint with any particular scientific marker. There is no simple test for schizophrenia, and obtaining a diagnosis can be complicated. For this reason, successful applications for SSDI often rely heavily on the documentation and expert testimony of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other treating physicians who are intimately familiar with a patient’s mental condition and ongoing challenges. Therefore it is often beneficial for disability applicants with schizophrenia make a point to establish regular visits with a therapist or physician who can later testify to the severity of the condition.
If you or a loved one are concerned about your ability to meet the requirements listed in Section 12.03, the SSA also provides that an individual with schizophrenia can qualify for benefits by showing that he or she has had a psychotic disorder for at least two years that has impaired his or her ability to function without support. This is typically established by showing that the individual currently lives with a caretaker or in an assisted living facility and that without such assistance the individual is likely to experience a worsening of symptoms, known as a period of decompensation. Thus, such applicants may also be able to utilize statements from family members or friends who have assisted in taking care of them over the past few years.
Sometimes a disorder can prevent someone from working at all in any type of occupation, even if his or her symptoms do not technically fit into one of the Listings. The SSA recognizes this possibility and offers a residual functioning capacity (RFC) evaluation. During this process, the applicant can try to show that he or she would not be able to function in any job available throughout the nation, not just the type of work that he or she currently holds. If the claimant can meet this high standard, SSDI benefits may still be accessible.Seek Advice from a Disability Benefits Attorney in Massachusetts
Despite the many symptoms that may qualify an individual with schizophrenia for SSDI benefits, crafting a successful application and claim can be very complicated. The effects of the disease are often difficult to categorize and quantify, and your application may require detailed records from a treating physician. At Kantrovitz & Associates, our disability benefits lawyers have extensive experience and familiarity with the SSDI process and understand the type of evidence that will support your claim. We have worked with many applicants from Boston as well as throughout Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Essex, and Suffolk Counties, and the Merrimack River area. For more information, contact us at (800)-367-0871 or through our online form.