The legal system considers a defendant IST when the defendant, because of a mental
illness or a developmental disability, is unable to understand his or her legal situation
or assist in preparing for her or his defense. When a court determines that a defendant
is IST, it also decides if mental health treatment will help restore the defendant’s
competence. If so, the court commits the defendant to a mental health hospital or
other setting to receive restorative treatment.
Periodically, the court may order the beneficiary to undergo psychological reevaluation
to determine the beneficiary’s competency to stand trial. If the treatment is successful
and restores the defendant’s competence, he or she returns to court to face criminal
If the mental health treatment is unsuccessful and the court declares the beneficiary
unrestorable to competency, the court’s commitment order changes from criminal to
civil or voluntary commitment. When this change occurs, the court generally drops
the criminal charges against the IST beneficiary. The change from a criminal to a
civil commitment does not affect the beneficiary’s suspension status. The beneficiary’s
benefits remain in suspense regardless of the commitment status until the institution
officially releases the beneficiary and the institution ceases to provide him or her with basic living needs.
NOTE: A mental assessment called “competency to stand trial evaluation” focuses on how
a person is mentally functioning at the time of the mental health examination. Another
mental assessment called “NGRI sanity evaluation” examines a person’s mental condition
at the time of the alleged crime.
Joan suffered mental trauma while committing a crime. The police arrested Joan for
her crime. Joan's attorney was concerned about her mental state and petitioned the
court to declare Joan IST because she was not able to help in her defense. The judge
ordered Joan to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment to determine if she
was competent to stand trial. Joan’s evaluation determined that Joan was now capable
of aiding in her own defense. Her condition was temporary and the court found she
was competent to stand trial. We will suspend Joan's benefits if the court convicts
her in the criminal trial and confines her for more than 30 continuous days.
Bob suffers from behavioral problems stemming from a brain injury. After committing
a crime and undergoing psychological evaluation for competency to stand trial, the
court declared Bob IST and ordered him confined to a mental health institution. Upon
remaining confined in the mental institution for more than 30 continuous days, we
suspended Bob’s Title II benefits effective the date the court declared him IST and
confined him to a mental institution.
One year later, upon reevaluation, the mental health institution reported to the court
that Bob was unrestorable to competency. At that point, the court changed the commitment
order from criminal to civil. The court also dropped the criminal charges. However,
Bob’s IST suspension remains in force.