November 17, 2010

Comments Needed to Social Security Administration on Proposed Mental Disorders Regulations
Deadline: Wednesday, November 17


The Social Security Administration (SSA) has published proposed regulations to change the mental impairments. These are the criteria used to help determine whether an individual with intellectual disability, mental illness, autism, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, or other cognitive or mental disorders is disabled for purposes of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program or the Social Security disability programs.

The Arc and UCP have carefully reviewed these regulations and believe they make a number of significant improvements for people with disabilities. We are finalizing our comments and urge that you comment directly to SSA on the following key points:

1. Terminology. Thank SSA for proposing a transition to using the term “intellectual disability” and urge SSA to drop the use of the term “mental retardation” altogether with clear instructions that the terms have the same meaning and cover the same people.
2. Diagnosis. Urge SSA to ensure that decision-makers respect the valid diagnosis of intellectual disability made by professionals and do not allow them to dismiss a valid diagnosis based on their own limited observations.
3. Infants and toddlers. Support SSA’s proposed new listing for Developmental Disorders of Infants and Toddlers to evaluate developmental disorders for children from birth to age three.
4. Measures of functional ability. Urge SSA to eliminate the reference to the use of standardized tests for measuring the functional abilities of people with mental impairments, as related to the “paragraph B” criteria of the regulations, until such time as tests have been developed, assessed, and found to truly measure the areas of function that are under consideration.

Take Action

Please submit your comments online by the deadline of Wednesday, November 17 (11:59 p.m. eastern time) at:

Thank you in advance for your advocacy efforts.

November 8, 2010
By Phil Villarreal on November 8, 2010 10:12 AM

The Grim Reaper of the recession harvested Rich’s door and screen company, leaving him with unpaid debts. Then the real nightmare began. Bank of America seized his elderly mother’s life savings to pay off Rich’s line of credit because she had added Rich’s name to the account to protect the funds in case she became incapacitated.

Now both Rich and his mother are sick to their stomachs. He writes:

“My partner and I tried to salvage our company by using our retirement to fend of this option to no avail.

Bank of America then proceeded to seize all of my mother’s savings from her B of A savings account with all the money she has in this world 27,500.00.

Two years ago my 87 year old mother asked me to sign on her account in the case that she were ill and not able to get to the bank and I complied.

My mother is on social security and has been for the last 20 years with no other income.

This was her money and I had no access at any time, nor did I ever deposit or withdraw funds at any time and that money was not mine and never to be it was saved from her social security.

I was not ever aware of the funds that she had and the account number was never information that I was privy to.

Mom was to use these funds to enter a retirement center this winter and now cannot.

In May of this year I was forced in bankruptcy protection as I had no other option with zero income In 2009.

This money was my mothers and only hers and I feel this is criminal and I want these funds returned to her account and I will do whatever is necessary to accomplish this.”

It’s doubtful BofA crossed any legal lines here, but it just seems wrong that Rich’s mother has to suffer due to a technicality. What would you do if this happened to you?

September 21, 2010

Last night I attended the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan event at the Goldfish Tea house in Royal Oak and was able to catch up with my colleagues Patti Dudek and Marsha Tuck. The tea house was charming and had a European feel to it with its wood floor and shelves that lined the whole length of the store. Right up my alley. It was a perfect fall day with just an edge of crisp to it and we were met by the smell of jasmine and the tea house’s gracious owner. I was good and didn’t whip out my wallet, even though I was lusting after some of the tea sets. One of the displays was cleverly labeled “last one” that was calling to me like I was Alice and it said “eat me.”

The WLAM event was showing the HBO movie “Iron Jawed Angels” to celebrate democratic values month. I had seen the movie when it aired on HBO some time ago, and I think every 18 year old woman should see it. I had forgotten how powerful it is. The suffragettes truly did “suffer” in their efforts to have women achieve legal status greater than livestock. Hilary Swank’s portrayal of Alice Paul moved many of us to tears. I have been fortunate to grow up in an era where my law school graduating class was 50 percent women and husbands are expected to help raise the kids. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not be able to have my own checkbook or have people think I’m a slut because I wore pants. The film is a wonderful illustration of how many of my legal rights as a woman have evolved during my grandmother’s generation. If you haven’t seen it, watch it with your daughter. There are some disturbing parts, so not for my little girls quite yet. I would like to think that if I were born in that era I would have been brave enough to march with them. Along with Patti and Marsha we carry on a similar fight for people with disabilities. Often their rights are neglected and their voices are not heard. Even though none us rode horses in the front of the suffragette parade, we have their legacy and strength of purpose to inspire us.

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