Robert D. Paulbeck, Attorney at Law
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Social Security Administration proposes change in terminology

The Social Security Administration, in an attempt to show greater sensitivity, recently announced it would begin using the term "intellectual disability" in place of "mental retardation," the term that has been used for years. The switch reportedly comes over two years after Congress required a similar switch in language in all federal health, education and labor policy. The change was not required for Social Security, but the administration wants to follow suit.

This would not be the first time Social Security has considered moving away from the term mental retardation. Back in 2010, the agency proposed a rule calling for updates to eligibility criteria for those with mental disorders, also indicating an intention to replace references to "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability/mental retardation." No action was taken after that proposal, though.

Those who advocate for individuals with intellectual disabilities support the decision, on the basis that the term "mental retardation" has negative connotations that didn't exist when the term first came into use. The proposal's publication this week begins a 30-day period of public commentary before any official change can take place.

If Social Security ends up going ahead with the change, references to "mental retardation" ad "mentally retarded children" would be replaced with "intellectual disability" and "children with intellectual disability" in Social Security's Listing of Impairments, as well as its other rules.

The recent proposal would not alter the way claims are evaluated for those with developmental disabilities. In our next post we'll take a look at the basic criteria in this area.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Social Security Proposes Dropping 'Mental Retardation," Michelle Diament, January 29, 2013

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