Definition of Schizophrenia
The National Institute of Mental Health defines schizophrenia as “a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.”
Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Patients with schizophrenia may have delusions and auditory or visual hallucinations, disorganized behaviour, and a pattern of incoherent or illogical thinking. Patients may experience inappropriate mood, emotional isolation, and withdrawal from social interaction.
Disability Related to Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia can be disabling and prevent any work, because it may severely limit a person's ability to engage in normal daily activities and social interactions, and to achieve and maintain gainful employment. In order to obtain a long-term disability award, a claimant typically needs to show that he/she has marked (generally meaning “significant”) impairments in at least two of the following areas:
- ability to interact with others,
- concentrate, persist or maintain pace,
- understand, remember or apply information, or
- adapt and manage oneself:
Essential Medical Documentation of Schizophrenia Needed for Disability Benefits:
In order to successfully obtain a disability award for schizophrenia, it is important that the medical records document not only a patient's symptoms, but they must also document with specificity how these symptoms impair a claimant's ability to function in society and how they impact the ability to work, stay on task, interact with co-workers, supervisors, the general public and show up for work as required in a competitive work setting. Simply stating that a claimant is “disabled from any gainful employment” is not enough. Evidence of hospitalization (5150 admittances) can provide compelling evidence; additionally the longitudinal diagnosis of the condition is important to establish – that the condition has persisted over a period of time (several years).
SSA utilizes the term "Impairments" (and resulting "limitations" - why you cannot work) are the essential bits of information that must be clearly and consistently documented throughout your medical history by the treating sources (medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists).
SSA additionally utilizes the term "Residual Functional Capacity" (RFC); this is a key concept related to the resulting physical and/or mental impairments from conditions for which the disability claim is based upon and the impact upon ability to work.
SSA has its own forms that are used for Mental RFC here. These forms can be filled out by the treating source who has the opportunity to examine the patient and understand the limitations which result from his/her condition and thereby document with specificity in the language of SSA disability.
SSA "Listing" or "Blue Book" description of schizophrenia can be found here (See 12.03)