Schizophrenia and Social Security Disability Benefits

attorney james ezzellI recently saw an excellent – but very sad – documentary on Schizophrenia that I want to recommend to anyone interested in the subject entitled God Knows Where I am.  It chronicles the mental health struggle of Linda Bishop back in 2007 and 2008.  She was a college graduate with a loving family and a roof over her head that as a result of her illnesses she gradually descended into homelessness and legal trouble.

It is a story about despite being diagnosed with several severe mental illnesses and occasionally forcibly committed to psychiatric facilities, if a person doesn’t believe they are sick and refuses all available treatment and medications, there is apparently not much the authorities or their family can currently do in many states to help them.

Ms. Bishop was diagnosed with Schizophrenia among other mental health ailments.  Over the years I have had a number of clients with this condition, but not nearly as many suffering from Depression and/or Anxiety.

What the Numbers Show

According to the latest figures I can dig up per a 2015 report released by the Centers for Disease Control, between 2009 and 2011 there were about 382,000 emergency room visits that were in some way tied to schizophrenia.  About twice as many men than women went to the hospital during that time period.  The disease is typically diagnosed in men who are in their late teens to early 20s and in women in their late 20s to early thirties.

The World Health Organization believes there are about 21 million people worldwide who suffer from this ailment, which shakes out to approximately 12 million men and 9 million women.

Not all people who have this ailment experience the same set of symptoms.  Among the others listed below these often include delusions and hallucinations, what I think most people tend to associate with Schizophrenia.

(Spoiler Alert) Ms. Bishop experienced severe delusions for example.  We know this because she kept a very articulate, detailed journal to the end.  (End Spoiler Alert)

In my experience when individuals experience hallucinations they are more often audible than visual, e.g. hearing voices instructing them to do something destructive or hearing people talking about them, insulting them and so on.

Even if individuals are willing to be treated and take their medications, it always seems that it is a struggle to manage the illness.  Occasionally, even if they are taking their medications like they are supposed to, their effectiveness wears off.  Then there will be a period of time where their treating physician has to juggle dosages and perhaps try new medications in order to get the illness (somewhat) under control.  For now, there is no cure just management.

How the SSA Reviews a Schizophrenia Disability Benefits Claim

Below is the actual listing the SSA uses in reviewing a disability benefits claim based on Schizophrenia for those interested in specifics:

12.03 Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders (see 12.00B2), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

  1. Medical documentation of one or more of the following:
    1. Delusions or hallucinations;
    2. Disorganized thinking (speech); or
    3. Grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia.


  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
    2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
    4. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


  1. 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:
    1. 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
    2. 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).

Contact a Knowledgeable SSA Disability Benefits Attorney Today

If you or your child have been denied SSA disability benefits or suffer from a severe impairment that is expected to last for more than twelve months and that prevents you from doing any of your past or other work or is causing developmental delay in your child, please contact our office nearest to you to set up a free consultation appointment to discuss your situation.

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