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Receiving Disability Benefits for Schizoaffective Disorder
A mental health condition that significantly limits your ability to both perform your daily tasks as well as earn a living, could qualify you for SS disability benefits. There are strict medical requirements under SSDI for both mental and physical impairments. Additionally, you will also have to meet work history requirements as well as resources and income requirements.
The SSA uses an impairment listing guide to help determine whether an individual qualifies for disability benefits. Obtaining schizoaffective disorder and disability benefits can often be difficult and one can benefit greatly from having an experienced Social Security disability benefits attorney from Carmichael Law Group. We can guide you through the process, ensuring you have the very best chance possible for securing SS disability benefits. We have successfully helped clients nationwide get the benefits that they deserve.
What is Schizoaffective Disorder?
Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by hallucinations or delusions (symptoms of schizophrenia) in conjunction with symptoms of a mood disorder like depression or mania. Schizoaffective disorder is relatively rare. This disorder has not been studied to the extent that schizophrenia and bipolar disorders have, and depending on the type of mood disorder, the symptoms can vary widely. That being said, symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can be severe, and may include:
- Delusional thinking—false, fixed beliefs clung to regardless of evidence to the contrary
- Hallucinations—hearing or seeing things that are not there
- Manic behavior—feelings of euphoria and racing thoughts with increases in risky behavior
- Depression—feelings of worthlessness, sadness, or emptiness
- Disorganized thinking—switching quickly from one completely unrelated subject to another
- Sleep disturbances
Medical science has not pinned down an exact cause of schizoaffective disorder, although it is believed the following could contribute to the disorder:
- Schizoaffective disorder tends to run in families, so there could be a genetic component.
- Stressful events can trigger an onset of the disorder
- Psychoactive drugs—like LSD—have been linked to the development of schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder symptoms can sometimes be managed through the use of antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, psychotherapy, and certain self-management strategies.
Is Schizoaffective Disorder a Disability Under Social Security Disability Rules?
If you have schizoaffective disorder, employment may not be possible, even with proper treatment and care. The SSA recognizes the employment barriers schizoaffective disorder can present, in many cases making retaining a job impossible. While the impairment listing guide contains no “standard” disability listing for schizoaffective disorder, you could qualify under Section 12.03—Schizophrenia and Section 12.04—Affective Disorders. For those that do not qualify under one of these listings, a residual functional capacity analysis can show your functional capacity is severely compromised, preventing you from working.
Schizoaffective Disorder and Disability Benefits
Under the Schizophrenia listing, your medical records must show at least one of the following:
- You experience hallucinations or delusions
- Your speed or thinking does not follow logical paths, making communications with others difficult
- You are unable to appropriately interact with others because you are emotionally isolated
And two of the following:
- Times when symptoms are very pronounced, or repeated episodes of decompensation
- Severe issues related to completing tasks, focus, or maintaining a “normal” pace
- Difficulty maintaining relationships or functioning socially
- Significant restrictions regarding functioning on your own without direct intervention or supervision
If you cannot qualify for schizoaffective disorder and disability benefits through the schizophrenia listing, you may meet the affective disorders listing that requires at least four of the following symptoms:
- Delusions, paranoia, hallucinations
- Attempts at suicide or suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Energy level changes like fatigue
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
OR lasting periods of mania that include at least four of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty with concentration
- Hyperactive behaviors
- Sleep disturbances
- Irrational or rapid speech
- Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia
Proving You Have Schizoaffective Disorder to Receive Disability Benefits
If your medical records fail to meet the requirements listed above, you may still be able to match the impairment guide’s listings, if you have documented medical/psychiatric records that show:
- Despite all prescribed therapies, you are unable to work
- You are under a qualified physician’s care
- You have had a psychotic state that lasted longer than two years
AND you have experienced at least one of the following:
- You have episodes of decompensation that occur repeatedly and have increasingly longer durations
- Any change in your routine or environment results in episodes of decompensation
- You are unable to function outside of a highly structured living environment
In the end, Social Security will look at the five-step review process and will determine what impact your condition has had on your life and your ability to work. Correct storytelling regarding your condition, while showing the impact of the condition carries much more weight than just the “title” of your condition.
Social Security does not pay for partial disability or short-term disability—only total disability. SSA determines whether you are disabled by asking the following five questions:
- Are you currently working? If you are working, and you are consistently making more than $1,310 per month, you will probably not be considered disabled.
- Does your disability prevent you from performing basic work-related activities (walking, standing, sitting, remembering)? In short, is your condition considered “severe?”
- Does your disabling medical condition meet or equal the severity of a listing found in the Blue Book list of medical conditions?
- Are you able to do the work you did prior to your disability?
- Can you make an adjustment to do any other type of work?
Getting Help with Your Schizoaffective Disorder and Disability Benefits from Carmichael Law Group
Carmichael Law Group, LLC focuses exclusively on Social Security Disability. We understand your condition can directly affect your ability to provide for yourself and your family. Our attorneys are 100 percent dedicated to helping our clients obtain the SSD benefits they need and deserve. Although we believe obtaining representation at the beginning of your schizoaffective disorder and disability benefits claim is important, we can help you at any stage of the process—from your initial application throughout the process of appeals. The filing process can be complex, with only about a third of those who apply for SSD benefits receiving approval following the initial application. The attorneys at Carmichael Law Group are ready to help you get your life back on track—contact us today.