Social Security:

Implementation of New Mental Impairment Criteria for Disability Benefits

HRD-86-75BR: Published: May 19, 1986. Publicly Released: Jun 19, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO monitored the Social Security Administration's (SSA) implementation of changes to methods used in evaluating claims relating to mental impairments for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs, as mandated by the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984.

GAO found that: (1) although SSA made an effort through its regional, state, and local offices to disseminate information to claimants concerning their rights to reapply for benefits, it did not develop a log of those who received the notices and will not be able to identify those who did not reapply; (2) SSA made substantial progress in staffing disability determination offices with psychiatrists and psychologists but 35 states have not met SSA goals; (3) new mental impairment criteria placed more emphasis on medical histories and assessment of functional capacities but many claimants were still not receiving proper medical treatment or rehabilitation; (4) problems still exist in documentation of claimants' functional limitations and capabilities: (5) growing case workloads may affect the adequacy of future case development; and (6) many of the claimants were not receiving medical treatment for their mental impairments because SSA had no policy or mechanism concerning claimants' medical treatment needs.

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