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'Mental retardation' may be out of use soon, says SSA

"Mental retardation" is a term we all know. But we also know that it often carries negative connotations. Despite this, the Social Security Administration has continued to use the term in its Listing of Impairments and in other policy documentation. It's not hard to see how people in New York and elsewhere who apply for disability benefits may feel disrespected to see this term used regularly by the SSA. Fortunately, that may be changing soon.

Late last month, the SSA proposed doing away with the term mental disability and instead using the term "intellectual disability." In 2010, Congress enacted Rosa's Law, which required this very change in language for federal education, health and labor programs and policy, but the SSA was not required to adhere. Despite proposing the change itself that same year, the agency failed to take action.

This time around, things could be different -- and many hope they will be. The CEO of The Arc, an agency that advocates for those with developmental disabilities, stated that it is time to change our rhetoric about disability. Doing so, he argued, will help protect and promote their rights as humans and citizens.

It's important that those who rely on disability benefits know that a change in terminology will not change how claims are evaluated. From the date of the proposal's publication, the proposal is open to the public for comment for 30 days. The SSA says it will consider these comments when deciding whether to move forward with the change.

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

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