If you’ve applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits based on a diagnosed mental illness or psychological disorder, then the Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate your medical documentation against conditions listed in the Bluebook, which is the listing of potentially disabling conditions used to determine eligibility for SSD benefits. If you don’t meet the listing criteria for a specific condition, then the SSA will need to determine your “mental residual functional capacity” (mental RFC) to decide if you’re eligible for disability benefits.
Mental residual functional capacity is a term used to describe the work you’re able to perform even with the limitations your mental illness places on you. The SSA assess your RFC and then uses that rating to determine if you’re able to work in your previous field or if there are other jobs that you could do despite your mental or psychological limitations.
If the SSA finds your symptoms severely limit your capabilities, then you may be awarded SSD benefits under a medical vocational allowance. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to meet the exact listing for your mental illness or psychological disorder in the SSA’s Bluebook to receive disability benefits. You must have a low enough RFC to grant you a medical vocational allowance due to your inability to find and maintain gainful employment for which you would otherwise be qualified.
By evaluating an applicant’s mental residual capacity, the SSA looks at the kinds of mental activities that must be performed on the job. By evaluating each activity, the SSA seeks to determine if you are moderately, significantly, or markedly limited.
When evaluating mental residual functional capacity, the SAA looks at four primary functional areas: understanding and memory, social interactions, sustained concentration and persistence, and adaptation.
If you’re found markedly limited in one or more of these areas, then you may be granted SSD under a medical vocational allowance. If however, you are found to be moderately limited in performing unskilled labor, for example, then the SSA can deny you SSD benefits based on the idea you should be able to find and maintain work in a different position in which unskilled labor is the central requirement for employment.
The SSA also looks at your intellectual capabilities when evaluating mental residual capacity. They will take both medical and non-medical information and details into consideration when deciding if you should be granted medical vocational allowance.
The medical documentation includes the standard doctors’ statements, diagnostic test results, and other traditional records from medical and mental health professionals. The non-medical evidence can include reports from family, friends, coworkers and former supervisors or assisted living staff.