If you have schizoaffective disorder, employment may not be possible. Even with proper care and treatment, your symptoms may become more pronounced at times. Those symptoms, which include sleep disturbances, mood swings, trouble interacting socially, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and psychotic breaks, make keeping a job difficult if not impossible.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the barriers to employment schizoaffective disorder presents, and the condition can qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Is Schizoaffective Disorder a Disability?
If you suffer from schizoaffective disorder, you might not be able to hold down a job. Even with intensive treatments of the disease, the symptoms that develop, such as dramatic mood swings and severe psychotic episodes, can increase in intensity to put you and those around you in harm’s way. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, anyone suffering from schizoaffective disorder must meet the medical guidelines established by the Blue Book published annually by the Social Security Administration.
Is schizoaffective disorder a disability? The answer is yes, if a patient meets the severity of symptoms listed in the Blue Book under either Section 12.03 or Section 12.04. Section 12.03 lists the qualifying symptoms for schizophrenia, while Section 12.04 lists the symptoms for affective disorders. If you do not meet the severity of symptoms for schizoaffective disorder that are listed in the Blue Book, you might be eligible to receive financial assistance by completing a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment. An RFC assessment measures your ability to work while addressing the symptoms associated with schizoaffective disorder.
The Blue Book lists the severity of symptoms you must meet to qualify for financial assistance. Experiencing delusions and/or hallucinations represent one of the trademark symptoms of the mental illness. Being emotionally unable to interact with other people, especially your professional peers, is considered another trademark severe symptom of schizoaffective disorder. As far as work performance goes, the inability to complete tasks, focus on projects, and maintain a normal pace while at work can be considered severe enough symptoms to get you approved for disability benefits.
Medically Qualifying with Schizoaffective Disorder
Although the SSA has a no standard disability listing in its Blue Book manual for schizoaffective disorder, there are two other listings under which you may qualify for benefits:
- Section 12.03 – Schizophrenia
- Section 12.04 – Affective Disorders
Even if you are unable to meet one of these listings, you may still be able to receive benefits by showing your functional capacity is severely compromised and prevents you from working. This is done through a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) analysis.
The schizophrenia listing requires your medical and psychiatric records show at least one of the following:
- You experience delusions or hallucinations
- Your thinking is illogical thinking and/or speech does not follow logical paths when communicating with others
- You are emotional isolated ad unable to interact with others appropriately
Your records must also show you experience at least two of the following issues due to your symptoms:
- Pronounced restrictions on functioning on your own, without direct intervention or supervision
- Difficulty functioning socially and maintaining relationships
- Severe problems with focus, completing tasks, or maintaining a “normal” pace
- Repeated episodes of decompensation or times when symptoms are very pronounced
If your medical records do not meet the listed requirements above, you can still match this listing through documented medical/psychiatric records that show:
- A psychotic state lasting two years or longer
- You are under a qualified physician’s care
- You are still unable to work despite following all prescribed therapies
- You experience at least one of the following:
- Episodes of decompensation that happen repeatedly and in longer durations
- Changes in environment or routine result in episodes of decompensation
- An inability to function at all outside of a highly structured living environment
If you do not qualify for benefits under the schizophrenia listing, you may instead meet the affective disorders listing, which requires:
- Lasting periods of depression that include at least four of the following symptoms:
- Appetite and body weight changes
- Fatigue or energy level changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations
- Lasting periods of mania that include at least four of the following symptoms:
- Paranoia, hallucinations, or delusions
- Rapid or irrational speech
- Sleep disturbances
- Concentration problems
Most applicants with schizoaffective disorder are able to meet or match one of these Blue Book listing. Even if you do not, you may still be able to get benefits through an RFC analysis. The SSA examines your activities of daily living in an RFC analysis. If they find your functional capacity is so impaired that you are unable to work at all, then you will be approved for benefits.
Getting Help with Your Claim
Working closely with your psychiatrist is essential when applying for disability benefits. You may also need to involve a Social Security advocate or disability attorney in your application process. He or she can help build your claim, review your forms before you submit them, and collect any required evidence. If you are denied benefits, an advocate or attorney can help you file an appeal.