Woman suffering depression.

Is schizophrenia a disability that qualifies for benefits to people who have the condition? According to the Social Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees disability claims, schizophrenia is considered a disability if it makes working impossible for the afflicted party.

Types of Schizophrenia

Is schizophrenia a disability under Illinois Social Security guidelines? SSA medical guidelines refer to schizophrenia as a spectrum disorder or medical condition consisting of various types with different symptoms. Common types of schizophrenia include:

  • Catatonic
  • Hebephrenic
  • Paranoid
  • Residual
  • Delusional Disorder
  • Psychotic Disorder

How Does Social Security Define Schizophrenia?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines schizophrenia as a medical condition that makes it impossible for the afflicted person to work. Due to various symptoms including delusions, disorganized behaviors, thoughts, and speech, hallucinations, and catatonia, people diagnosed with schizophrenia usually struggle to interpret reality in their personal and professional lives. Typically, long-term medical care and medications are needed to stabilize the person’s mental condition.

What Is Considered a Mental Impairment?

Under SSA guidelines, a mental impairment is evaluated based on a medically diagnosed and documented impairment that imposes a degree of limitations on the patient. When evaluating a mental impairment or mental health disability, the SSA looks closely at the afflicted person’s functional ability to work and if the condition is expected to last for at least 12 months or longer.

What Is the Criteria for Getting Disability With Schizophrenia?

The SSA has strict criteria for evaluating mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessive/compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To determine eligibility for disability benefits, the SSA relies on the “Blue Book”, the Social Security disability list of impairments that breaks down medical conditions by their symptoms, diagnosis, and prognosis. When a disability claim is filed for schizophrenia, the SSA evaluates the claim based on the Blue Book findings and two critical factors: 1- the claimant’s ability to work, and 2 – how long the condition is expected to last.

The SSA classifies jobs based on skill levels such as skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled. To qualify for disability benefits, the claimant must be able to work at one of these skill levels with his or her type of schizophrenia. When the job is unskilled or has limited social interactions, the claimant must find another way to show that he or she is disabled or can no longer work.

How to Know Which Type of Benefits You Should Apply For

When you apply for disability benefits, you can file based on two types of claims, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify for disability under SSDI, you must have a work history and a sufficient number of work credits based on your taxable income. To qualify for disability under SSI, you only need to have a limited income and limited resources. SSI pays benefits based on your financial needs, rather than your work history.

Is schizophrenia a disability through SSDI and SSI programs? Although SSDI and SSI programs differ in eligibility requirements and disability benefits, you can apply for benefits through either program as long as you meet the SSA guidelines. SSDI and SSI claims do share an application, so you can apply for both to see which program offers the best coverage for you. If you have a work history, it’s typically better to apply for SSDI benefits because your monthly benefit payment will likely be higher than SSI benefits. It’s also possible to receive benefits from SSDI and SSI at the same time.

If you file for SSDI, how long does an SSDI application take? For both SSDI and SSI claims, the average wait time for approval is 3 to 5 months because the SSA must review all submitted information and supporting documents.

How Much Is a Disability Check for Schizophrenia?

The average monthly disability check for schizophrenia, as well as other psychotic disorders, is $1,035.29. However, the amount of the actual check depends on your work and income history and which type of benefits program you qualify for. In 2023, the maximum monthly disability benefit is $3,627.00 for SSDI and $914.00 for SSI.

If you file for SSDI, you may be eligible for retroactive payments. This is money that the SSA owes you for the eligible time that you were disabled before you filed your initial SSDI application. This may apply if you waited a while to file your claim or get an approval after becoming disabled.

How Work History Impacts Social Security Disability Applications

Your work history only impacts your application for SSDI because claims are based on a sufficient number of work credits based on taxable income. Your work history has no impact on SSI claims, which are based solely on financial needs. Although you can work or not work and apply for SSI, this program is really set up to help people with limited or no income and assets.

Is a Psychological Evaluation Required?

If the SSA requires more evidence to prove a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a claimant may be required to have a psychological evaluation to determine his or her mental status and any deficits in mental functions. This is likely when medical records do not provide necessary information about the claimant, or when the claimant has not received any type of ongoing or intermittent psychological treatment.

When to Hire a Social Security Disability Lawyer

If you are diagnosed with schizophrenia and it’s impossible for you to work, you can apply for disability benefits. A Chicago Social Security disability lawyer can help you get the disability benefits you need for monthly bills, medical expenses, and everyday expenses. An experienced disability lawyer who understands the SSDI and SSI claims process can oversee your claim, gather medical records and evidence, and communicate with the SSA on your behalf. If your claim is denied, your lawyer can file an appeal or request a hearing to review your claim and get your benefits approved.