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What is the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Score?

A global assessment of function, known as a GAF, is commonly used in the Social Security Administration to determine mental status. It's mainly used by mental health practitioners to document, diagnose, and offer prognosis regarding mental health.

The GAF scoring system is based on severity of symptoms and level of functioning for individuals under mental health care. GAF scores are divided into numerical categories ranging from 1 to 100. Each level, broken down into groups of 10 and starting at 100, gradually designates an increase in the severity of the mental health of the individual as the number score decreases.

For example, a GAF score of between 91 and 100 designates a person's ability to function in a positive manner in their daily environment. In this score range, individuals don't particularly have any issues, are positive, and don't experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or mood disorders.

An individual with a GAF score of between 51 and 60 may experience moderate symptoms as well as difficulty functioning in social environments. For example, such a person may find it difficult to make friends or to get along with others. Such people may have difficulty expressing their emotions and may even experience occasional anxiety or panic attacks.

As the GAF score decreases, symptoms and the severity of a mental health illness are more defined. An individual with a GAF score of 21 to 30 may experience difficulty maintaining a job, may be so depressed he stays in bed all day, and may experience difficulties communicating with others. Such an individual may also be subject to hallucinations or delusions.

A person with a GAF score of 1 to 10 may be considered suicidal and have a potential capability of hurting themselves or others. Violent tendencies and desires are often noted in individuals within this scoring range.

How Do your GAF Scores Affect your Disability Claim?

The GAF score assigned to individual cases, depending on need, have nothing to do with an individual's physical capability to work. It does have everything to do with their psychological and social abilities to function in a workplace or social environment and also plays a role in determining how a person may function in specific occupations.

Certified mental health personnel, including psychologists and psychiatrists, determine GAF scores. A number of factors, including a GAF score, determine a mental impairment or mental disability claim. Scores are carefully assessed during periods where individuals are not working, as stress of normal workday assignments or obligations may increase an individual's frustration or anxiety and have a direct result on their ability to work.

The GAF score is not the only determining factor on whether an individual's disability claim will be approved or denied. Every case and scenario is determined on a separate basis. In order to ensure the most thorough review of any Social Security Disability Insurance claim application, make sure that adequate medical documentation accompanies each claim to increase chances of a thorough and well-informed review.