New Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders Goes Into Effect in January 2017

On Monday, September 26, 2016, Social Security published a final rule updating the criteria used in evaluating disability claims involving mental disorders. This rule, “Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders,” is the most comprehensive revision to the criteria since 1985. The full rule can be found at 81 FR 66137.

Upon publishing this final rule, SSA’s standards and terminology for evaluating claims involving mental disorders reflect information from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) — the mental health profession’s current standard classification of mental disorders.

Overall, SSA implemented a lot of changes in response to public comments. Some of the changes will be helpful to claimants while others will make proving disability as a result of a mental impairment more difficult. Here is a basic outline of what changed:

  • SSA updated the titles of most of the listings (to follow DSM-V);
  • SSA kept the structure of the ‘‘paragraph A’’ criteria from its prior rules in all of the listings (except for 12.05 and 112.05), and updated the paragraph A criteria;
  • SSA renamed the titles of paragraph B1 (understand, remember, or apply information) and B3 (concentrate, persist, or maintain pace) to be linked by ‘‘or’’ rather than ‘‘and’’;
  • SSA removed all references to using standardized test scores for rating degrees of functional limitations for adults (except for listing 12.05);
  • SSA will consider the greatest degree of limitation in any part of a paragraph B1, B3, or B4 area of mental functioning as the degree of limitation for that whole area of functioning;
  • SSA retains (with fairly detailed explanation of the rating points) the 5-point rating scale for rating degrees of functional limitations in adults;
  • SSA reorganized the listing criteria in listings 12.05 and 112.05, intellectual disorder, to reflect the three diagnostic criteria for intellectual disability;
  • SSA creating new listings, 12.15 and 112.15, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, to reflect the updates in medical understanding reflected in the DSM–5.

The application of the new rules is effective January 17, 2017, and all branches of SSA will be required to abide by these new rules.

If you or someone you love has a mental disability and is fighting for Social Security disability benefits, give us a call at Louisiana Disability Law at 985-240-9773.  We have the experience to guide you through this difficult process and help you understand these new listings.

Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Disability and Personal Injury Attorney
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