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SSDI, SSI beneficiaries no longer considered 'mentally retarded'

At the beginning of August, the Social Security Administration will no longer refer to people with cognitive or developmental disabilities as “mentally retarded” in any of its disability listings or documentation. Instead, the agency will revise all of its manuals and other paperwork to use the phrase “intellectual disability.”

For those who receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income due to a disabling mental condition, this should be a welcome change from the outdated term, which many consider humiliating and hurtful.

The phrase “mental retardation” is currently being stamped out both in the medical and caretaking fields and in the documents of many federal agencies. The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists, has replaced the phrase with “intellectual disability.” And, almost three years ago, President Obama signed Rosa’s Law, which urges, but does not legally require, federal agencies to avoid using the obsolete term.

The SSA announced its intention to replace the archaic phrase in January by proposing an official rule change and opening that proposal up to public comment. The agency received 76 comments, a full 71 of which enthusiastically supported the change. A large majority supported using the term “intellectual disability,” with others proposing “developmental disability” or “cognitive impairment.”

Following the lead of the DSM-V and other federal agencies, the SSA accepted the phrase “intellectual disability” at the close of the public comment period and plans to put the rule into effect at the start of next month.

The change in terminology will not have any impact on how SSDI or SSI claims are evaluated.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Social Security To Drop ‘Mental Retardation,’” Michelle Diament, Aug. 2, 2013

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