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SSA Refuses to Comment on Possible Standardized Mental Health Test

A little unclear wording is making a lot of people very nervous. A new proposed federal regulation from the Social Security Administration (SSA) contains imprecise language regarding those who would seek to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits for mental health. Advocates worry that the new language may impose a standardized test on these individuals, greatly decreasing the number of people with mental disabilities who are able to receive SSD. Although lack of clarity has caused substantial public outcry, the SSA is refusing to comment on the growing controversy.

The confusion is due to just a few sentences within the 34-page regulation, but the subject matter in those sentences could have a significant impact on SSD applicants. According to advocacy groups, the proposed regulation makes contradictory statements regarding the potential imposition of standardized testing for applicants with mental disabilities. First, the regulation says standardized tests will not be required. Soon after, however, it goes into detail about how such a test would be used to determine whether a person with a mental disability is fit to work.

Because of the confusion, advocates and groups have been calling the Social Security Administration and leaving hundreds of comments with their views on the matter. Yet SSA officials have refused to speak about the proposed regulations because of an agency policy that requires them to wait until the public has made its comments about an issue.

According to Mark Heyrman of the advocacy group Mental Health Summit, the creation of a standardized test would increase the occurrence of already-too-common SSD denials. "We don't have good tests for this, and the way they are describing how the tests would be used suggests the goal and likely effect is to dramatically reduce the number of people who are eligible for disability," he said.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Social Security's mental health proposal stirs fears", John Keilman, 13 November 2010

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