Social Security's Psychiatric Review Technique Form

Social Security completes a PRTF form for every disability claim that involves a mental condition.

If your disability claim is based on a mental condition (such as anxiety, depression, or autism), the Social Security Administration (SSA) will prepare a Psychiatric Review Technique Form (PRTF) as part of your claim evaluation process.

What Is a PRTF?

A PRTF is a form that the SSA uses to help makes its determination about whether you qualify for disability based on your mental condition. A doctor who works for the SSA will use the form to indicate whether the basic requirements for disability are met, and if they are, whether or not your mental condition can be approved automatically under a disability listing.

A listing is a medical condition that the SSA has determined is severe enough to warrant an automatic approval of benefits. To "meet" a listing, your mental condition must fulfill the specific criteria for that condition. (You can learn more about getting approved under a listing in our article about the Social Security Disability List of Impairments.)

Before a PRTF is prepared, the SSA must complete a mental residual functional capacity assessment (MRFC). Your MRFC will use the evidence you have submitted to assess how your ability to perform a variety of mental work-related activities has been impacted by your illness. A doctor who has been hired by the SSA will initially complete this form. Here are some of the things the MRFC will assess:

  • how well you can understand and remember directions
  • your ability to concentrate and finish jobs on time
  • how well you can get along with co-workers and the public, and
  • how well you can handle changes in your workplace.

MRFCs are the most important part of a mental illness claim. You can download a copy of an MRFC here.

Once an initial MRFC is completed, the SSA will then have another doctor prepare the PRTF.

What Does a PRTF Include?

The PRTF is divided into the following sections:

I. Medical Summary

II. Documentation of Factors that Evidence the Disorder

III. Rating of Functional Limitations, and

IV. Consultant Notes.

Medical Summary

In this portion of the PRTF, the medical consultant who completes the form will indicate a “Medical Disposition” and the “Category(ies) On Which the Medical Disposition is Based.”

Medical Disposition. There are eight options for the medical consultant to choose from in the Medical Disposition section of the PRTF. They are:

  1. No Medically Determinable Impairment. This means the doctor doesn’t think you have a medical condition that can explain your symptoms—you will be denied if the doctor chooses this.
  2. Impairment(s) Not Severe. This means that even though you have a medical condition, it isn’t serious enough to interfere with your ability to work—you will be denied if the doctor chooses this.
  3. Impairment(s) Severe But Not Expected to Last 12 Months. This means that even though you have a medical condition, it will not meet the 12-month duration requirement—you will be denied if the doctor chooses this.
  4. Meets Listing. If the doctor decides your condition meets a listing, you will be approved automatically for disability benefits. The doctor must write which listing your condition meets.
  5. Equals Listing. If this doctor decides your condition equals a listing, you will be approved automatically for benefits. The doctor must write which listing your condition meets.
  6. RFC Assessment Necessary. If this doctor selects this, it means that the SSA will need to prepare an MRFC before the doctor can complete the PRTF.
  7. Coexisting Non-mental Impairment(s) that Requires Referral to Another Medical Specialty. If the doctor chooses this, it means you have a physical condition that the doctor believes needs to be reviewed by a doctor who has experience with that particular physical condition.
  8. Insufficient Evidence. If the doctor selects this, it means that your file doesn’t have enough medical information in it about your condition for the doctor to complete the PRTF.

Categories on Which the Medical Disposition is Based. If the reviewing doctor concludes that your medical condition meets or equals a listing, the doctor will use this section to indicate which listing is met. Here are the choices of listings given for mental conditions:

  1. Organic Mental Disorders (12.02)
  2. Schizophrenic, Paranoid and Other Psychotic Disorders (12.03)
  3. Affective Disorders (12.04)
  4. Mental Retardation (12.05)
  5. Anxiety-Related Disorders (12.06)
  6. Somatoform Disorders (12.07)
  7. Personality Disorders (12.08)
  8. Substance Addiction Disorders (12.09)
  9. Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders (12.10)

To learn more about the listing requirements for each mental condition, see our article Mental Illness and Social Security Disability. This article has links to specific mental illness articles that discuss how to get disability for each of these conditions.

Documentation of Factors that Evidence the Disorder

In this section, the doctor will select your documented symptoms that evidence the existence of your particular mental condition. Each mental condition (of those discussed above) is listed with its particular set of required symptoms.

If you have a medically determinable mental condition but your symptoms don’t satisfy the specific required factors for that condition, the doctor has the option to state this on the PRTF form.

Rating of Functional Limitations

In this section, the doctor will indicate the functional limitations caused by your mental condition. Functional limitations are those that are caused by your mental condition that negatively impact your ability to live a normal life. These are the areas that this section of the PRTF will assess:

  • Restrictions of Activities of Daily Living (like grocery shopping)
  • Difficulties in Maintaining Social Function (interacting with friends and family)
  • Difficulties in Maintaining Concentration, Persistence, and Pace (the ability to get your work done on time), and
  • Episodes of Decompensation, Each of an Extended Duration (times when your symptoms get so bad you are disabled by them).

Functional limitations can be:

  • mild
  • moderate
  • marked (severe), and
  • extreme.

Most listings require that you have functional limitations that are “marked” in at least two of the areas discussed above in order to be approved.

Consultant’s Notes

The PRTF also contains a blank area where the consulting doctor can write any additional information he or she thinks is necessary.

Required Review of the PRTF

The SSA requires that the PRTF be reviewed and certified by accurate by an additional consulting doctor. If the reviewing doctor disagrees with the PRTF, he or she can indicate the reasons why she disagrees. Sometimes this results in a new PRTF being completed.

You can request a copy of the PRTF to review as well. Read the PRTF carefully to see that it accurately reflects the symptoms and limitations of your mental condition.

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