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Broad language in DSM-5 could lead to more disability claims

Employers have reason to be concerned about the new edition of the mental illness manual

The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Illnesses (DSM-5) is obviously big news for mental health professionals, but the manual is raising concerns for the legal industry as well.

Some defense lawyers are concerned that it’s easier to diagnose employees with mental illness under the new manual, thus making it easier for employees to claim they qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Thomson Reuters reports. DSM diagnoses are often key factors in the assessment of ADA claims.

For example, one of the changes in the DSM-5 eliminates a bereavement clause that asserted that the period following the death of a loved one doesn’t qualify as chronic depression. The new edition just includes suggestions on how to tell the difference between mourning and depression.

Franczek Radelet Associate Douglas Hass told Thomson Reuters that the DSM-5’s language is so broad that a bereavement period could now be considered mental illness. Things like this will make it more difficult for employers to determine if a mental illness diagnosis really qualifies as a disability.


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