Social Security Administration makes changes to List of Impairments

To determine if an individual has a medical condition that qualifies him or her for Social Security Disability Benefits, (either via the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance program) the Social Security Administration, the federal agency that handles retirement, disability and survivors' benefits, looks at several factors. Among the list of factors is looking at whether the condition is listed on the Security Security's List of Impairments.

Recently, the Social Security Administration published a final rule that made changes to the list. The change involves following suit with many other entities and discontinuing the use of all references to the phrase "mental retardation."

The change

Specifically, the Social Security Administration will no longer use the phrase "mental retardation" within the List of Impairments. Instead, the phrase "intellectual disability" will be utilized moving forward. The final rule indicating the change was recently published in the Federal Register.

For example, all references to "mentally retarded children" will be changed to "children with intellectual disabilities."

During the public comment phrase, "developmental disability" and "cognitively impaired" were alternate phrases suggested and considered by the agency before the official decision was made.

The change will also be made within other areas within the jurisdiction of the Social Security Administration.

However, the change only references the language; claims regarding mental disabilities will continue to be evaluated by the SSA the same as before.

Reason behind the change

The change came about due to negative associations of the phrase "mental retardation" that developed throughout the United States within the last decade. Disability advocates have since promoted such changes in order to recognize the seriousness of the disability and respect it deserves.

Changes in other areas

Other U.S. agencies and organization have already made such changes and today use the same phrase.

In October 2010, Rosa's Law was passed and language in the federal health, education and labor codes has all been amended to reflect the new language "intellectual disability."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders also uses the new language.

The Federal Registrar published the final rule late last month, however, the changes will not take effect until September.