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Can schizophrenia qualify one for SSD benefits in New Jersey?

The public consciousness and pop culture tend to have a certain idea of the kind of mental illness schizophrenia is. This misperception often includes thinking that people with schizophrenia have several different and distinct "personalities" living inside them. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding often leads to the marginalization and mishandling of those suffering from the condition. In reality, the condition is much more complex and disruptive to a person's life. Further, the fact that the onset of schizophrenia is often in a person's early 20s means that it usually interferes with the period of time when an individual is establishing his or her career path, and can have severe consequences for a person's earning potential.

In its so-called "blue book," the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists the various factors that need to be shown in order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits when faced with a mental disorder such as schizophrenia. This publication lists two basic tests that need to be medically documented to determine eligibility. First, the person must exhibit medically documented persistence in hallucinations or delusions, disorganized behavior such as catatonia, or be incoherent or illogical in a manner associated with blunt, inappropriate or flat affect or emotional withdrawal and isolation. Further, to satisfy this first test, the above problems must result in marked restriction of daily activities, social function difficulties, problems in concentrating, persisting or pacing, or repeat episodes of decompensation.

If the above test is not met, the person may still be eligible for SSD benefits if he or she has a medically documented history of schizophrenia for at least two years and it has interfered with basic work activities more than minimally. Further, the person must have had multiple extended periods of decompensation, or be predicted to decompensate due to slight changes in environment or activity. Finally, the person may meet the requirements if he or she has a documented history of the condition for over a year, and would not be able to function outside a highly supportive environment.

While some people are able to control many of their schizophrenic symptoms through medication, these drugs also have side effects that can interfere with normal functioning ability. If you have questions about yourself or a loved one who may qualify for SSD due to a mental illness, you may wish to consider contacting an experienced New Jersey disability lawyer.

Source: SSA.gov, "Disability evaluation under Social Security," accessed August 10, 2015

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