How Can I Help Someone with Active Psychosis Get Disability Benefits?

Disability Benefits

If you have a family member or friend with an active psychosis condition, it is likely quite obvious to you that they cannot work. The symptoms from these types of mental conditions can be very disruptive. And medication often only helps manage or reduce symptoms instead of completely alleviating them. Sufferers may grapple with paranoia and struggle to complete daily living tasks.

Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are among the conditions that qualify someone to collect federal disability benefits. In fact, it is very common. More than eight million Americans receive benefits each year. Of those, about 29% receive benefits for mental health issues from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

If you are wondering what steps to take next to ensure the person you care for can get the help they need, you may be interested in our answer to the following question:

Reader question: My therapy client is currently suffering from active psychosis and has lost her job due to this. Would a chronic mental health condition qualify her to send in an application for disability? If so, to what extent does she need to fill out the documents versus a family member or myself as her clinician?

Answer: Yes, it’s very likely she would qualify under the SSA’s blue book listing for schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders.

How the SSA Reviews Claims for Conditions That Can Cause Active Psychosis

The SSA’s blue book listing under section 12.03 includes disorders marked by:

  • Delusions.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Disorganized speech.
  • Either grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, causing a clinically significant decline in the person’s ability to function.

According to the SSA listing, symptoms and signs may include “inability to initiate and persist in goal-directed activities, social withdrawal, flat or inappropriate affect, poverty of thought and speech, loss of interest or pleasure, disturbances of mood, odd beliefs and mannerisms, and paranoia.” Disorders known to cause bouts of active psychosis that the SSA reviews under this category include:

Will My Loved One Require a Representative Payee?

In the case of the therapist reader who sent in the question, it may be that her client is not in possession of all her faculties at this point. In other words, her client may not be in the right state of mind to manage her finances without help. As a result, the client may require what’s called a “representative payee.” This is literally a person who receives benefit payments on behalf of another individual who cannot handle banking deposits or paying bills.

The SSA appoints a representative payee for people who can’t safely manage their own payments. When the SSA appoints these representative payees, they’re responsible for a lot. The therapist who asked the above question may not want to take on all the duties that come along with this role. Instead, they may want to see that a family member assumes this role for the client experiencing bouts of active psychosis.

Here are three things a representative payee must legally do:

  1. Use disability benefits to pay for the beneficiary’s immediate needs, such as rent, medicine, transportation, and food. 
  2. Save money to plan and budget for future needs.
  3. Keep detailed records. 

The therapist might make a good representative payee only if they are comfortable doing these three things for the foreseeable future.

Steps to Getting Disability Benefits for Someone with Active Psychosis

The therapist should start by confirming that this client wants to apply for SSD benefits. If so, the therapist will likely need to complete a mental RFC form. This “mental residual functional capacity” form documents which tasks someone with a mental illness can do on regular basis while receiving treatments such as therapy and/or medication.

[You can download a blank version of the mental RFC form here to complete at your convenience for free.]

The SSA reviews that document to determine if someone can perform his or her current or former job tasks. They’ll also check to see if the applicant can perform any other, similar kind of work. If not, then the SSA will likely award them benefits. To evaluate the state of the condition itself, the SSA also looks at all available medical and non-medical evidence. 

Medical evidence needed to support your SSD claim usually includes:

  • Medical information about the condition causing episodes of active psychosis. This includes things like the condition’s history, test results, diagnoses, treatments, responses, symptoms, and current prognosis.
  • Letters of support from romantic partners, friends, and family. People who know the sufferer personally and are familiar with their health issues should provide these letters. Be sure to ask those who write such letters to describe how the person’s active psychosis and related health problems impact their daily life.

To proceed, the person you’re filing the claim for will need to:

  • Submit all ID
  • Sign the paperwork
  • Provide other information (like banking account and work history)

Pro Tip: For a full list of items you’ll need to apply for SSD benefits, see this checklist.

Help Is Available to You and Your Loved One

Getting SSD benefits for a person whose mental condition causes active psychosis can be very challenging. So, you might benefit from speaking to a Social Security attorney for free.

An experienced professional can give you the best advice on how to apply for Social Security disability benefits. 

Every disability lawyer in our network helps people on contingency. This means you’ll pay nothing if the SSA doesn’t award SSD benefits. And if you do receive benefits for your loved one, then they’ll only pay one small fee.

Ready to see if you may qualify for free expert claim help? Click the button below to sign up for a free phone call during normal weekday business hours:

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and