Many of our firm’s Social Security disability clients suffer from a combination of physical and mental (or psychological) disorders. This combination can make it easier to make a successful claim than if the clients had only physical or only mental problems. In the mental cases, a Global Assessment of Functioning test is important evidence.
A Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score shows up in psychiatric and clinical notes for individuals with a variety of mental disorders. The scale ranges from a low of zero through one hundred. The lower the number, the greater the degree of functional impairment. Frequently our Social Security Disability clients and Disabled Veterans will have GAF scores in the high 40s and low 50s. A score of 50 indicates serious symptoms (e.g., unable to keep a job,) but a score of 51 indicates only moderate symptoms. While the Veterans Administration has been relying on a veteran’s GAF score, that trend his decreased in recent years. The Social Security Administration looks at GAF scores within the larger context of the medical records the claimant provides in support of their claim.
In a recent case we had in Dallas, our client had a series of GAF scores spaced over a two year period that were decreasing every few months. The source of GAF scores over this two year period was our client’s treating psychiatrist. While the Social Security Administration approaches GAF scores with a critical eye, when the same health care provider is giving scores over a period of months the “objectivity” of the scoring is enhanced. Because different doctors might give somewhat different GAF scores to the exact same patient, the Social Security Administration is reluctant to say that a particular score means someone is disabled. But in our case where the same doctor has assigned declining scores over a period of months, the trend in the GAF scores was more revealing that any one score standing alone. This is what we were able to show, and the claimant was awarded benefits.
Our client’s case records contained other evidence of a disability. In an effort to manage his symptoms, the psychiatrist adjusted the medications and discontinued others that were ineffective. The dosage of Paroxetine (Paxil) our client took was increased, and his auditory hallucinations were treated with Risperdone (Risperdal.) Paxil is a common outpatient medication for individuals with major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder.
As in all Social Security Disability claims, it is important for claimants to follow their doctors’ instructions as closely as possible. This compliance with prescribed treatment is critical in determining a claimant’s credibility.
If you have questions about disability please contact us for a free consultation. We represent individuals nationwide.