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Social Security Administration Finalizes Rule Change for Intellectual Disabilities

The term "mental retardation" will no longer be used in federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration (SSA). Instead, it will employ the phrase "intellectual disability. "

The final rule regarding the change was published in the Federal Register last week. The SSA reported that the new term was in widespread use when they approved the change. The SSA said:

"Advocates for individuals with intellectual disability have rightfully asserted that the term 'mental retardation' has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it."

This change means that the SSA will replace the phrase "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" and "children with intellectual disability" in its listing of impairments, also known as the "Blue Book."

The publication in the Federal Register finalizes the change process that began in January of 2013, when the change was proposed and opened for public comment. Of the 76 comments received, 71 supported using "intellectual disability" rather than "mental retardation." Those who objected did not advocate for retaining the old term, but instead proposed a more precise name such as "developmental disability."

By approving the change, the SSA is in alignment with other federal agencies that have already adopted the new terminology.

This change has been a long time coming. Almost three years ago, President Obama signed Rosa's Law, a bill that replaced "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" in all health, education and labor policy documents and publications. The law did not require the SSA to change its terms; however, it did so in order to be in line with other federal agencies. Most states have already dropped the old terms.

In addition to being dropped by the Social Security Administration, the phrase "mental retardation" no longer appears in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is used by medical professionals and the SSA to diagnose mental disorders that qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD).

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income for an intellectual disability or for any other reason, call the advocates at Binder & Binder® for help resolving problems with your claim. Tell them your story and find out if they can help you.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Social Security to Drop 'Mental Retardation'," by Michelle Diament, Aug. 2, 2013.

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