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Social Security disability benefits for mental conditions better

Some say that a new Social Security settlement is important because it brings attention to the plight of the mentally disabled who depend on Social Security benefits to survive on a daily basis. The Social Security Administration agreed on Tuesday, June 19, to a legal settlement with two men who were receiving Social Security disability benefits for mental conditions. The SSA agreed to help the two mentally disabled plaintiffs who reside outside of New York to understand the forms and requirements for receiving benefits.

The details of the agreement require the SSA to provide a qualified expert to consult with each of the two men in the case. The expert will make sure the beneficiary understands the rules and regulations when dealing with Social Security paperwork. This lawsuit is significant because it is the first time a federal agency was legally required to fulfill the special needs of a mentally disabled person in this way. The settlement also awarded legal fees to the plaintiffs totaling $900,000.

This is similar to other previous important court cases involving blind recipients and those deaf or hard of hearing. The judge in those class-action lawsuits ordered the Social Security Administration to send notices to blind beneficiaries by Braille or audio discs. Additionally subsequent case decisions required the SSA to began providing similar assistance for the deaf and those with hearing impairments.

The two plaintiffs receiving Social Security disability benefits for mental conditions have had their benefits reduced or even completely halted due to lack of understanding of the process. For example, one of the plaintiffs had benefits reduced because he did not know he could deduct disability-related expenses from the income he reported. The other plaintiff lost his benefits completely because of an inaccurate review of his past income. The recent lawsuit could be the first of many filed on behalf of mentally disabled beneficiaries in New York and everywhere in the U.S.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Social Security ordered to help two S.F. men," Bob Egelko, June 21, 2012

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