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Can I receive SSD benefits if I have schizophrenia?

Because mental illness and mental conditions are still far less understood than other medical conditions, many people do not fully comprehend the effect a serious mental illness can have on one's ability to function day-to-day and hold a job. In addition, many people who have been diagnosed with certain mental conditions that render them unable to work do not know that they may qualify to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Understanding what qualifies as a mental illness disability is the first step to potentially receiving benefits.

Schizophrenia is one of the mental disorders that are recognized as a qualifying condition by the Social Security Disability system. The Social Security Administration places schizophrenia within the category of mental disorders that also includes paranoid and other psychotic disorders. Under the SSA's definition, this category of mental disorders involves psychotic episodes that diminish the individual's previous level of functioning.

Because mental illnesses can have many different levels of severity, the SSA describes at what level of severity schizophrenia can qualify a person to receive benefits. Essentially, for schizophrenia and other paranoid and psychotic disorders, the SSA has identified three groups of requirements. If a person can show one of the requirements in group A and at least two of the requirements in group B, the required level of severity will be established. Alternatively, meeting the requirements of group C alone will also suffice.

Group A requires the persisting symptoms that are medically documented in the form of delusions or hallucinations, catatonic or grossly disorganized behavior, certain forms of incoherence or illogical thinking, or emotional withdrawal and isolation. Group B descibes particular manifestations of symptoms of limitations that include marked restriction of daily living activities; significant difficulties in handling social interactions; significant concentration difficulties, persistence or pace; or repeated instances of the sudden increase in symptoms that is known as episodic decompensation. Group C requires a history of chronic schizophrenia that has lasted, and has been medically documented, for at least two years and that has resulted in significant limitations related to performing work activities. Group C also requires specific symptoms or signs, as well as repeated decompensation, a residual disease process, or a history of an inability to function without high levels of support.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security: 12.00 Mental Disorders - Adult," accessed Jan. 17, 2015

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