According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental health disorders account for many disabilities in the U.S., including clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia. Additionally, nearly 10 percent of adults over 18 in the U.S. will suffer from a depressive illness every year. And while women are almost twice more likely to suffer from major depression than men, both women and men are likely to develop bipolar disorder equally.
While the cause of mental disorders isn’t always apparent, researchers believe many mental health conditions are caused by genetics, as well as psychological, environmental, and biological factors—not as an inadequacy or deficiency in a person’s character or personality. Mental illness is often characterized by a change in the way a person behaves, interacts socially, feels, and perceives his environment. People who suffer from schizoaffective disorder have continuing symptoms of psychosis that present like schizophrenia and also repeated symptoms of mood disorders.
Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder vary from person to person. Patients may experience hallucinations, hear voices, or suffer from paranoia, and they may also feel depressed, deal with suicidal thoughts, and have problems sleeping. It's typical for a person suffering from this disorder to become less interested in his appearance and give less attention to hygiene and general cleanliness. Sometimes the symptoms can become debilitating and make it impossible for the person to handle daily activities.
Many mental illnesses, including schizoaffective disorder, can be debilitating, but it’s difficult to get an approved disability claim for benefits from Social Security (SS). If you want compensation for this disability, you may need to hire a disability attorney to help you deal with the complex application process.
Disability Claims for Schizoaffective Disorder
Many people wonder if the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes schizoaffective disorder as a disabling mental illness. And there's no easy answer. Many factors are considered when making a determination, including:
- If your medical evidence is credible and convincing
- If your symptoms are severe
- If your treatment has been effective
- The type of work you’ve done—recently and in the past
- The level of your education
If your medical records show strong, plausible proof of your illness, you’re more likely to get a claim approved for schizoaffective disorder. However, sometimes this is difficult if your symptoms make it hard for you to make it to appointments, follow your treatment schedule, and take prescribed medications. Failing to follow through on these things can reduce the type of persuasive medical records needed for an approved claim.
Mental Disorders in the SS Blue Book
The SS Blue Book listings of impairments for mental disorders are classified in the following categories:
- Neurocognitive disorders - 12.02
- Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders - 12.03
- Depressive, bipolar and related disorders - 12.04
- Intellectual disorder - 12.05
- Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders - 12.06
- Somatic symptom and related disorders - 12.07
- Personality and impulse-control disorders - 12.08
- Reserved - 12.09
- Autism spectrum disorder - 12.10
- Neurodevelopmental disorders - 12.11
- Reserved - 12.12
- Eating Disorders - 12.13
- Trauma and stressor-related disorders - 12.15
Most of these listings include a statement that defines and explains the disorder; medical findings about the condition; and impairment-related functional limitations. Although schizoaffective disorder is now specifically listed in the SS Blue Book, a claimant suffering from this disorder can use the 12.03 listing for schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders to help get an approved claim.
To be eligible for disability benefits, the primary consideration by the SSA is whether or not you can hold any type of job. This requirement stipulates that you're unable to work at your present job, or any job you had over the past 15 years.
Why Are So Many Disability Cases Denied and Lost on Appeal?
There are a variety of reasons that disability claims aren’t approved and cases aren’t won during the appeals process. Here's a brief look at two of them:
- SSA doesn’t try to get a statement from your doctor. That's up to you to obtain. However, at the hearing level, your attorney will usually get that statement and present it to the judge. It’s important to know that you need better evidence than just having your doctor claim that you’re disabled. He must also satisfy the requirements of SSA by listing the ways in which you’re disabled and how your functional capacity is limited. That’s why it’s helpful to work with an attorney through the entire process. He will likely have the physician complete and sign a “specialized medical source statement” that provides solid, supporting statements—which can be the reason your win or lose a disability case at the hearing level.
- Before your case gets to the hearing level, you don’t have the opportunity to explain how your disorder limits your functioning, and your attorney can’t make a presentation about all the evidence. At the claims level, a disability examiner looks at all the evidence and makes a determination without meeting you.
That’s why it’s so critical that you have solid, persuasive evidence that outlines how your daily life is affected by your condition and the symptoms that don’t allow you to work.
We Can Help
If you or your family members suffer from schizoaffective disorder or any type of mental illness, we’d like to talk to you about your eligibility for SSDI or SSI benefits. If your disorder has negatively affected your life and makes it impossible to work, contact Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405. We’ll schedule an appointment to see if you qualify for compensation.