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SSD Proposal's Impact on the Mentally Disabled May Depend on Interpretation

A new 34-page proposal for federal regulation of Social Security Disability from the Social Security Administration may impact how applicants who have a mental illness will be evaluated in consideration of a person's fitness for work. The proposed regulation would impact people across the nation, including Ohio, who are applying for federal benefits.

Advocates for the rights of people with mental illnesses have raised concerns that the way the new proposal is written will have an adverse effect on a mentally disabled person's ability to qualify for benefits. They argue that the language of the proposal seems to require standardized testing instead of focusing on medical records and psychologist and psychiatrist recommendations. Advocates allege that if the language is read to require the standardized testing, the number of people with a mental illness who would qualify would be dramatically reduced.

Some of the concern is not just focused on the number of people who would be disqualified from benefits they desperately need, but the consequences of being denied a "disabled" status. Depending on individual state law, some mentally disabled members of society would not only be disqualified from SSD benefits, but would also be disqualified from receiving necessary Medicaid health insurance without qualifying as disabled.

While some are concerned with the proposal, others say that even the most "clear-cut" regulations are open to interpretation. The lack of concern rests upon the belief that the proposal will not have much of an effect no matter how it is interpreted.

Officials with the Social Security Administration have refused to comment on the proposal at the time being, their silence justified by their policy of allowing adequate time for the public to respond.

Source: Chicago Tribune "Social Security's mental health proposal stirs fears" John Keilman 11/13/10

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