Changes to Social Security’s Disability Listings for Mental, Emotional, and Cognitive Disorders

Social Security has updated its disability listings for mental disorders and many of the changes and additions are significant. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The mental listings now include a new listing for trauma-related and stressor-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • There is also a new listing for “neurodevelopmental disorders,” which are characterized as disorders that begin in childhood or adolescence. They include ADHD/ADD, learning disabilities, borderline intellectual functioning, and tic disorders such as Tourette syndrome.
  • The third new listing is for adult eating disorders (previously there was a listing for eating disorders only in the childhood disability listings).
  • The listing for “organic mental disorders” has been renamed as “neurocognitive disorders,” and requires a significant cognitive decline, among other criteria. It covers varios types of dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and drug- or alcohol-induced dementia, as well as traumatic brain injuries without lasting physical problems (TBIs with physical problems have their own listing, listing 11.18, under neurological disorders). Note that a drop in I.Q. of 15 points that results in serious limitations is no longer is method of qualifying for benefits under the neurocognitive disorders listing.
  • The listing for intellectual disability has been changed to “intellectual disorder,” and it is now similar to the definition for intellectual disability in the DSM-5.
  • Limitations in “activities of daily living” have been removed as criteria for all of the mental listings. Instead, the functional requirements of the listings focus on the mental activities that an applicant would use to perform work activities, including understanding and applying information, interacting with others, concentrating and maintaining pace, and managing one’s behavior. Similarly, repeated episodes of decompensation is no longer a listed criterion.

The articles on Nolo’s website that explain Social Security’s mental listings (linked above) have been updated with the details of the new listings and the next edition of our book Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability: Getting & Keeping Your Benefits (March 2018) will cover these changes comprehensively.

Effective date: January 17, 2017