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A Look at the Revised Social Security Criteria for Mental Disorders

If an adult or child has a disability due to a mental disorder, they may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits. Since mental impairment affects a person’s ability to perform daily tasks and decreases their capacity to work, the SSA provides disability benefits to such individuals based on the severity of their condition.
On September 26, 2016, the SSA published a final rule, titled Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders, which will be enforced in January, 2017. This is a comprehensive revision made to the process for evaluating the disability claims of adults and children who have mental disorders.

The Key Changes

The following are the most significant changes made to the current rules and criteria to qualify for Social Security benefits:

  • The titles of most of the listings have been updated.
  • The 5-point rating scale, which was previously used in rules for rating the functional limitations in adult, is retained.
  • New listings are created, 112.15 and 12.15, which are associated with stressor- and trauma-related disorders, to align with the updates made for medical understanding as reflected in the DSM-5.
  • Updates are made in the paragraph A criteria while keeping its structure from previous rules in all listings, except for 112.05 and 12.05.
  • The four areas of functioning that are covered in the “B” criteria in the listings have been changed. The new areas of functioning are: 1) Interact with others, 2) Understand, apply, or remember information, 3) Adapt or manage oneself, and 5) Concentrate, maintain, or persist.
  • The revised criteria for intellectual disability are identical to the DSM-5 definition, and cover three main elements. They include considerable deficits in adaptive functioning, extensive limitations in general intellectual functioning, and evidence pertaining to the fact that the disorder occurred before age 22.
  • A new listing for neurodevelopmental disorders has been included under 12.11. It will identify plaintiffs who have cognitive impairments from extreme or marked functional limitations, but do not fulfill the eligibility criteria for intellectual disorders.


Why is the SSA making these changes?

The Blue Book listings for mental health conditions was way overdue a full revision since 1990, which the SSA carried out this September.

“Updating our medical criteria for the disability program is a challenging task that has been complicated by deep budgetary cuts in recent years,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, the acting commissioner of Social Security. “We are committed to updating our regulations to reflect up-to-date standards and practices used in the health care community.”

The final rule includes changes made considering the public comments from the 2010 proposal, advances in medical knowledge and technology, and updates that were made to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

If your loved one has a disability due to a mental disorder, they may qualify for Social Security benefits as per the revised criteria. Harold W. Conick & Associates Ltd has been successfully representing clients for over 30 years to get their rightful benefits. Contact us today at (800) 608-8881 to schedule a consultation with our Social Security disability attorney.