The Social Security Administration has proposed a major revision to the criteria used to evaluate mental disorders in adults and in children. The revision is an attempt to reflect advances in medical knowledge concerning psychological disorders.
Presently, every listing for a mental disorder has three, and sometimes four, parts: (1) the general diagnosis of the disorder; (2) the specific symptoms, signs and laboratory findings that support the presence of the disorder; (3) the functional limitations that would render the claimant incapable of working; (4) for some listings, as an alternative, a showing that the claimant would be incapable of tolerating the stress of work.
Under the proposed amendments, a claimant would only need to show the following in order to meet a listing based upon mental disorder: (1) a mental disorder covered by one of the 10 listings and (2) marked limitations of two of the four paragraphed functional limitations, or extreme limitations of one of the four limitations.
The amendments also clarify the definitions of the terms marked and extreme. A limitation is marked when the symptoms and signs of the mental disorder interfere seriously with your using that mental ability independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis to function in a work setting. A limitation is extreme when the symptoms and signs interfere very seriously with your using that mental ability independently, appropriately, effectively and on a sustained basis to function in a work setting.
The changes to the listing are meant to provide clearer criteria for the psychological listings. However, the new definitions for marked and extreme , do not seem to provide the explanation necessary to clarify the terms. The key term in the definitions is seriously. But, what is meant by the term seriously? It is an entirely subjective term that leaves a lot to the discretion of the assigned Administrative Law Judge. What could be a serious or very serious limitation to one Judge may not be to another Judge. The listings, ideally, would provide for uniform decisions, but such a broad definition of such crucial terminology can only serve to provide varied decisions.
The actual text for the proposed amendments is published in the August 2010 Federal Register. 75 Fed. Reg. 51336.