Disability Benefits for Schizoaffective Disorder in Virginia


In 1933 Jacob Kasanin used the term schizoaffective to describe a group of patients suffering from both psychotic and mood symptoms.


Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition characterized by the presence of mood symptoms – such as major depression or a manic episode – and at least two of the following: delusions; hallucinations; disorganized speech; disorganized behavior; or diminished expression.


This mental impairment can cause many symptoms and difficulties. If you are unable to work due to schizoaffective disorder, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Contact Richmond disability lawyer and SSD attorney Fredericksburg Corey Pollard for a free consultation. We can help you no matter where you are in the SSD process – from filing a disability application in Virginia to appealing a denied SSD claim to presenting your case at the disability hearing.

Diagnosing Schizoaffective Disorder


A psychiatrist or psychologist may diagnose schizoaffective disorder if you meet the following criteria:


1. An uninterrupted period during which you suffer either major depression or a manic episode while also having delusions, visual or auditory hallucinations, disorganized speech and behavior, or a diminished ability to express yourself (also called negative symptoms).

2. Psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or auditory or visual hallucinations, that last for 2 or more weeks even when you are not suffering from a major depressive or manic episode.

3. You suffer from depression or manic episodes the majority of the time. In other words your mood disorder must be persistent.

4. Your symptoms are unrelated to substance use.


Other symptoms include: illogical speech; rapid speech that others have difficulty understanding; paranoia or excessive worry; lack of concern with grooming or hygiene; difficulty sleeping; and difficulty with concentration, attention, and memory.


How to Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Schizoaffective Disorder


There are three ways to qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits if your schizoaffective disorder keeps you from working: meeting a disability listing, equaling the requirements of a disability listing, or proving that you are unable to perform any work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy based on your age, education, acquired job skills, and residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment.


Meeting or Equaling a Listing for Schizoaffective Disorder


The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a specific disability listing for schizoaffective disorder. You may, however, meet Listing 12.03 entitled “Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders.”


To meet this listing you must have the following:


1. Medical documentation of at least one of the following: delusions; hallucinations; disorganized thinking or speech; or grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia (abnormal physical movement and behavior).


2. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas:


  • Learning, understanding, remembering, and applying information. For example you must show that you have difficulty following instructions and completing tasks.
  • Interacting with others. This includes the general public, coworkers, supervisors, friends, and family.
  • Concentrating on tasks and finishing them at a reasonable pace.
  • Managing your emotions or adapting to changes in the work environment.


Even if you do not satisfy the criteria above, you can still meet a listing if you have medical documentation and proof that your schizoaffective disorder has lasted for at least 2 years and you have evidence of:


  • Medical treatment, mental health counseling and therapy, or living with a strong support system or in a highly structured setting that helps your symptoms; and
  • You have a difficult time adapting to changes – either new mental demands or a new environment.


Getting Approved for Disability Based on Your Residual Functional Capacity


Even with medical evidence that shows you suffer from schizoaffective disorder and that your symptoms are severe, you may not meet the requirements of the disability listing for schizophrenic spectrum and other psychotic disorders. You may, however, still qualify for disability benefits based on schizoaffective disorder if your testimony is credible and demonstrates problems working and your medical provider provides a supportive opinion statement.


Many of my clients suffering from schizoaffective disorder have severe depression that leads them to isolate themselves and withdraw from others. Depression and mania also cause emotional outbursts and irritability that make it difficult to deal with other people. These symptoms of mood disorder, along with periods of paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, can make it impossible to maintain regular attendance and concentration on the job. If there is no work you can due based on your schizoaffective disorder symptoms, then the SSA will find you disabled.


Call, text, or email Corey Pollard for a free consultation. We help people suffering from schizoaffective disorder across Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland.