Social Security Disability – GAF Scores

In July of 2013, the SSA released guidance to adjudicators regarding the usefulness of GAF scores in Social Security Disability and SSI claims. With the publication of the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), GAF scores are no longer included and the question arises of what will the SSA do with GAF rating when determining disability? On July 22, 2013, the SSA released Administrative Message AM-13066:

We consider a GAF rating as opinion evidence. As with other opinion evidence, the extent o which an adjudicator can rely on the GAF rating as a measure of impairment severity and mental functioning depends on whether the GAF rating is consistent with other evidence, how familiar the rater is with the claimant, and the rater’s expertise.

Factors that adjudicators must consider in evaluating GAF ratings include:

  • A GAF rating needs supporting evidence to be given much weight.
  • A GAF scores is never dispositive of impairment severity. It is not be given controlling weight if from a treating source unless it is well-supported and not inconsistent with the other evidence in the file.
  • A GAF score from a treating source is still medical opinion evidence, even if not given controlling weight, and “good reasons” must be provided in the decision if it is not given controlling weight.
  • A GAF rating cannot be used to establish the diagnostic criteria of “mental retardation” or “intellectual disability” because it lacks specificity, is not a standardized measure of intelligence and adaptive behavior, and may not reflect a claimant’s functioning over time.
  • A GAF score does not equate to a particular mental RFC assessment. The GAF does not measure the ability to meet the mental demands of unskilled work and there is no correlation between GAF scores and the B criteria in the mental disorders listings.

On October 14, 2014, the SSA issued a revised version of the AM. It provides that GAF ratings are considered as opinion evidence, but that adjudicators cannot draw reliable inferences from differences in GAF ratings assigned by different clinicians or from a single GAF rating. GAF ratings are not designed to predict outcome, but rather to help plan and measure the impact of treatment. GAF ratings need supporting details and cannot equate to a listing level impairment.

For more information on other mental impairments, click here.

If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout Tennessee.




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