What is a GAF Score?
GAF stands for Global Assessment of Functioning Scale. A clinician can use this to measure a veteran’s overall level of functioning and their ability to carry out activities of daily living. For veterans who are claiming PTSD or any mental health condition, they should know that their GAF score can play an important role in how the VA decides their claim. Before proceeding, you should know that the VA has now been using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V). The DSM-V no longer uses GAF scores, but instead now uses the assessment tool known as the WHODAS 2.0.
The Global Assessment of Function scale is a 100-point score that measures a veteran’s overall level of psychological, social and occupational functioning on a hypothetical continuum, with 100 measuring minimal limits of daily functioning and the measurement of 0 indicating that the veteran or individual is having severe difficulty with daily activities and functions.
Typical GAF Score Ranges In The Scale
- 100-91: Superior functioning in a wide range of activities – no symptoms
- 90-81: Absent or minimal symptoms, good functioning in all areas, interested and involved in a wide range of activities. Socially effective and generally satisfied with life
- 80-71: Transient symptoms and expectable reactions to psychosocial stressors; no more than slight impairment in social, occupational or school functioning
- 70-61: Some mild symptoms or some difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning, but generally functioning pretty well; has some meaningful interpersonal relationships
- 60-51: Moderate symptoms or moderate difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning (i.e., few friends, conflicts with peers or coworkers)
- 50-41: Serious symptoms or serious impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning
- 40-31: Some impairment in reality testing or communication or major impairment in several areas, such as work or school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood
- 30-21: Behavior is considerably influenced by delusions or hallucinations or serious impairment in communication or judgment, or inability to function in almost all areas
- 20-11: Some danger of hurting self or others or occasionally fails to maintain minimal personal hygiene; or gross impairment in communication
- 10-1: Persistent danger of severely hurting self or others or persistent inability to maintain minimal personal hygiene or serious suicidal act with clear expectation of death
How the VA Uses GAF Scores
The VA many times will evaluate for GAF scores for the purpose of a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination. A C&P examiner
will assess for GAF scores based on an interview with the veteran during the examination and review the veteran’s medical records. Then, the VA will use the results of the exam including the GAF score to assign the suitable rating for the veteran’s mental health condition.
Since GAF scores can fluctuate on a day to day basis due to a person’s personal level of functioning, solely relying on a GAF score for continued levels of impairment may not be the most reliable indicator for the veteran’s level of functioning.
For example, a veteran can be having a good day which results in GAF score of the 70-61 range and then dropping to the 41 to 50 range after having a bad day due to their mental health condition and the severity of their conditions. This can often time lead to the VA assigning a possible incorrect rating for a veteran’s mental health condition just based on a GAF score from a VA C&P examination.