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SSA POMS: Mental Limitations

The Program Operations Manual System (POMS) is a resource used by Social Security employees to process claims for Social Security benefits. It provides detailed instructions and guidance on various aspects of benefit administration. Here we review POMS DI 25020.010-Mental Limitations.

POMS DI 25020.010-Mental Limitations

What are the mental abilities needed for any job and why does this matter to our work?

Perhaps you have read this on an applicant’s denial notice: “Your mental health impairment is not so severe that it would prevent you from working in a stable, low-stress environment. Despite your mental health impairment, you can perform low-stress jobs, which may include employment as a Store Greeter, Restaurant Dishwasher, and Receptionist.”

These jobs are not necessarily "low-stress" or calm work environments. So, why did SSA find that the applicant can do this work despite their impairment-related symptoms, and how can we strengthen the record to include specific examples of limitations experienced by the applicant to preclude these jobs and avoid a denial?

This POMS lays out what “mental abilities are needed for any job.” Mental abilities required at the workplace can include your ability to:

  • Comprehend and remember instructions (and carry them out)
  • Keep up your pace and complete tasks
  • Be able to exercise judgment in making decisions at work
  • Interact properly with supervisors and co-workers
  • Deal with changes in your work routine

You can help provide more complete descriptions and observations about how applicants perform their jobs under the Employment section of the Medical Summary Report (MSR). We recommend using the MSR Interview Guide which includes questions about how an individual’s mental abilities impact their ability to perform work on a continual, sustained basis. Other helpful documentation is employer letters which address the applicant’s mental abilities. By thoroughly describing the applicant’s range of symptoms relevant to job-related mental abilities, you can help DDS examiners gain a deeper understanding of the severity of their non-exertional limitations.