If you or someone you know has a mental disorder you may have a disability that meets the criteria established by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Listing of Impairments (the “Listings”). The Listing of Impairments lists impairments considered severe enough to prevent an individual from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA), which is work that earns income above a certain threshold per month. In 2017, this is $1,170 for non-blind disabled applicants and $1,950 for blind applicants.

The listings for mental disorders are arranged in 11 categories. In terms of meeting the requirements of the Listings, the selected requirements depend on which type of mental impairment is being considered.   Five of the categories, neurocognitive disorders; schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders; depressive, bipolar and related disorders; anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders; and trauma- and stressor-related disorders all must satisfy a set of requirements listed in two paragraphs identified as A and B.

Other disorders must meet requirements listed in three paragraphs, A, B, and C. These mental disorders must either meet the requirements of paragraphs A and C or paragraphs A and B. The five mental disorders to which the three paragraph test applies are somatic symptom and related disorders; personality and impulse-control disorders; autism spectrum disorder; neurodevelopmental disorders; and eating disorders.

The paragraphs A, B, and C concern different requirement of the Listings.  In particular, Paragraph C provides the criteria used by Social Security to evaluate “serious and persistent mental disorders.”  To satisfy paragraph C criteria, a mental disorder must be both “serious and persistent.” To meet this requirement, there must be a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years and evidence that satisfies the other criteria in paragraph C.

The eleventh category of mental disorder, intellectual disorder, has only two paragraphs but they are unique to its listing. These two paragraphs, A and B, apply only to intellectual disorder and require the presence of significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning; significant deficits in current adaptive functioning; and evidence that supports the conclusion that the disorder began prior to the age of 22.  The age 22 requirement is a frequent stumbling block for an adult because of the difficulty of finding proof that relates back to age 22,  but there is a Listing that speaks to a 15 point IQ drop from premorbid time frame (think brain injury as an adult)

With the exception of intellectual disorder, paragraph A of each listing includes the medical criteria that must be present in the medical evidence establishing the mental disorder. Paragraph B of each listing provides the functional criteria assessed, in conjunction with a rating scale, to evaluate how a mental disorder limits functioning.

The criteria contained in paragraph B represent the areas of mental functioning used by a person in a work setting. These areas of mental functioning are:

  • The ability to understand, remember, or apply information;
  • The ability to interact with others;
  • The ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace; and
  • The ability to adapt or manage oneself.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) ultimately determines the degree to which a medically determinable mental impairment adversely affects the above four areas of mental functioning and the ability to function independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis. To satisfy the criteria of paragraph B, a mental disorder must result in a certain degree of limitation.  What is required is: (1)  an  “extreme” limitation of one of the four areas of mental functioning;  or (2) “marked” limitation of two of the four areas of mental functioning.

The Social Security Administration has made a commitment to providing benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that their conditions unquestionably meet disability standards. Known as the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) process, it expediently identifies diseases and other medical conditions that qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical data. This process permits Social Security to focus on the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that it may obtain quickly. Thus, individuals with severe mental disorders theoretically may receive benefits sooner than others with a less serious impairment.

One of the best ways to make sure you understand all of the technical, legal requirements associated with a mental disorder and applying for disability benefits is to retain the services of an experienced, knowledgeable and qualified Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Sullivan Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so there is absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.Identifying Your Disability Under The Listing Of Impairments: Mental Disorders - Part 1: The Criteria