How to Apply for Disability Benefits with Schizophrenia in New Jersey

Published on April 13th, 2020

Schizophrenia is a mental condition that occurs in about 1% of the population. About 100,000 cases are diagnosed in the US every year, usually in people between the age of 16 and 35. It’s difficult to diagnose in teenagers, since some of the commonly recognized behaviors—such as sleeping problems, irritability, changes in friendships and grades—are also part of regular teenage behavior. Schizophrenia can lead to difficulty in everyday functioning and interfere with regular employment.

Schizophrenia is characterized by specific behaviors:

  • Positive symptoms:

Hallucinations, where patients see, hear, feel or smell something that isn’t there

  • Delusions, where a patient believes he or she is being monitored or followed, threatened, that another person is reading their thoughts, or unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

    Psychomotor illnesses such as clumsiness, repetitive actions, unusual mannerisms, and rigidity without motion for extended periods of time.

    Negative symptoms, including social withdrawal, not speaking (catatonic behavior) and similar behaviors.

    Cognitive symptoms, such as lapses in memory or attention, especially when planning and working to achieve goals. These problems are particularly difficult for those working to lead a normal life.

    Both medical and behavioral therapies are available, and many people are able to work and function normally. Some individuals with severe cases of schizophrenia aren’t able to live a normal life. They may not be able to take care of themselves, and may find it difficult to find and keep employment. Patients with a severe schizophrenia disability case may need to apply for Social Security Disability.

    Your Application For Disability Benefits With Schizophrenia

    The Social Security Administration asks roughly the same question of anyone applying for disability based on a medical condition: how does this affect your ability to work?

    To answer this question, you’ll need to show that you have an official diagnosis for schizophrenia, and you are or have been unable to work for 12 months or more as a result. You’ll also have to qualify based on “reduced functional capacity” or meet the requirements of Social Security’s listings for schizophrenia found in Listing 12.03, Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, in the SSA Listing of Impairments.

    Your medical records need to be in your application, which should include:



    -Psychological Testing

    -Medical notes from regular medical appointments

    -Opinions for healthcare providers (doctor, psychiatric nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.)

    -Evidence of living in a structured setting where you receive help from others performing daily tasks

    -Statements from friends and family regarding your inability to work and keep employment

    An incomplete application can lead to an immediate denial. 

    Schizophrenia Disability Condition And Medications

    Schizophrenia is a lifelong illness requiring regular treatment which includes medication such as antipsychotics. One issue is whether a specific medication is successful in treating schizophrenia and symptoms. The disability application will request a list of your medications, dosages, frequency, and the date each medication was prescribed by your physician.

    The SSA’s regulation require that you follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment, or provide a substantial reason for failing to follow that treatment. If your symptoms are under control with medication, the SSA may rule that you are not disabled. Although many prescriptions are successful in treating symptoms like hallucinations and/or delusions, many also have side effects that can impact your ability to work.

    Residual Functional Capacity

    A major part of a schizophrenia disability case is RFC, or “residual functional capacity,” or how much you can or can’t do.

    For a physical disability, an RFC determines what kind of work you can do, such as sedentary, “light duty,” etc. This RFC is based on how long you can sit, stand, lift, carry, push and pull.

    For a mental disability such as schizophrenia, a “mental RFC” works a little differently. The SSA investigates the seriousness of your condition. If your schizophrenia is severe, the agency creates a mental RFC that defines your ability to work and interact in an employment environment.

    In a similar fashion, the SSA will compare your limitations and discern if you are able to work in your previous occupation, or how your limitations match up with other occupations in the US. If you are found to be unable to do even an unskilled job, or unable to learn a new one, the agency will award you schizophrenia Social Security Disability.  

    What If SSA Denied My Benefits?

    Social Security does have an appeals process, but the process is even more complex than the application. That is why it is very important that you get help from a New Jersey disability lawyer to increase your chances of a successful appeal. While many people are denied on the first try, the success rate is higher on appeal with legal counsel.

    Discuss Your Schizophrenia Disability Case With Maryjean Ellis

    Applying for Social Security Disability for schizophrenia can be a difficult process but you don’t have to approach it yourself. Because schizophrenia is a complicated illness and challenging to prove, having a New Jersey disability lawyer can make the process easier. Contact the Law Office of Maryjean Ellis for your complimentary case review and discuss how we can help you with an application or appeal for schizophrenia disability benefits.

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