After a case heralded for its landmark decision, the Social Security Administration will help two men with training and assistance because their mental disabilities prevented them from understanding eligibility rules. Although the men, who receive Social Security Disability benefits for their mental disabilities, reside in another state, the impact of the decision will likely reach to all jurisdictions, including Georgia.

This case is the first of its kind because it required a federal agency to make special accommodations for mentally ill and disabled citizens. For example, the SSA had only started sending braille or audio-recorded notifications to blind recipients because of a court order in 2009. Now, the group will be required to consider its large constituency of mentally disabled recipients, including those with schizophrenia, autism and functional illiteracy.

The settlement, which was approved earlier this week by a federal judge, will require the SSA to designate a staff member to meet regularly with the men to explain forms and requirements. The men had lost their benefits because the application and maintenance process was too difficult to understand, according to their attorneys.

One of the men had lost a large chunk of his benefits because no one explained to him how to deduct his SSD income from the money he earned at a part-time job. His benefits were ultimately suspended because a federal worker required him to sign an inaccurate form stating his total income. The other man was barred from Social Security for seven years because of an erroneous agency review of his previous income. He has since been reinstated into the program.

Although this was not a class-action lawsuit, the implications for federal agencies are indeed significant. Mentally and developmentally disabled American adults will benefit from the increased level of accountability that will be present at the SSA, say advocates.

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