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Social Security Disability and Mental Disorders

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Brief Explanation of Social Security Disability Case:

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When applying for Social Security disability benefits claimants may have psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, schizoprenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, mental retardation or other mental disorders that are disabling and prevents them from working. The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews the claimants medical records from psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians and other mental health professionals and any admissions to hospitals or mental health facilities to assess the severity of the psychological conditions and the affects on your daily activities and ability to work. Often the admissions to psychiatric facilities are involuntary and in Florida are called being Baker Acted where a person will be admitted for 72 hours if deemed a harm to themselves or others.
The SSA has to determine if your mental disorder is severe enough to prevent you from working for 12 continuous months. The SSA will review the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Score which is a standardized psychological assessment used by mental health professionals to score, on a scale of 0 to 100, the severity of the mental disorder that the claimant has.  

The GAF Score Chart is as follows:

91-100  Superior functioning in a wide range of activities, life's problems never seem to get out of hand, is sought out by others because of his or her many positive qualities. No symptoms. 
81-90    Absent or minimal symptoms (e.g., mild anxiety before an exam), good functioning in all areas, interested and involved in a wide range of activities, socially effective, generally satisfied with life, no more than everyday problems or concerns (e.g., an occasional argument with family members). 
71-80   If symptoms are present, they are transient and expectable reactions to psychosocial stressors (e.g., difficulty concentrating after family argument); no more than slight impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., temporarily falling behind in schoolwork). 
61-70   Some mild symptoms (e.g., depresed mood and mild insomnia) or some difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., occasional truancy, or theft within the household), but generally functioning pretty well, has some meaningful interpersonal relationships.
51-60  Moderate symptoms (e.g., flat affect and circumstantial speech, occasional panic attacks) or moderate difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., few friends, conflicts with peers or co-workers).    

41-50  Serious symptoms (e.g., suicidal ideation, severe obsessional rituals, frequent shoplifting) or any serious impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., no friends, unable to keep a job).
31-40  Some impairment in reality testing or communications (e.g., speech is at times illogical, obscure, or irrelevant) or major impairment in several areas, such as work or school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood (e.g., depressed man avoids friends, neglects family, and is unable to work; child frequently beats up younger children, is defiant at home, and is failing at school). 
21-30  Behavior is considerably influenced by delusions or hallucinations or serious impairment, in communication or judgment (e.g., sometimes incoherent, acts grossly inappropriately, suicidal preoccupation) or inability to function in almost all areas (e.g., stays in bed all day, no job, home, or friends).

11-20  Some danger of hurting self or others (e.g., suicide attempts without clear expectation of death; frequently violent; manic excitement) or occasionally fails to maintain minimal personal hygiene (e.g., smears feces) or gross impairment in communication (e.g., largely incoherent or mute).

1-10  Persistent danger of severely hurting self or others (e.g., recurrent violence) or persistent inability to maintain minimal personal hygiene or serious suicidal act with clear expectation of death.

0  Inadequate information.

A persons GAF score can vary over time (e.g., upon admission when Baker Acted may be scored at 30 but at discharge may be scored at 55). Obviously the lower a claimants GAF score the more likely to be found disabled by the SSA for a mental disorder.

If you have any questions about Social Security disability, you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213, go to their website at www.ssa.gov or call The Nuebel Law Firm, P.A. at 407-703-5999 for a free consultation.

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