You asked whether persons who are placed in a mental health treatment facility by
court order are subject to suspension of benefits under Title II or Title XVI when
the formal charges are dismissed. The answer is yes.
The facts of this case are that the individual was arrested on October 27, 1998, and
charged with third degree sexual abuse, which is a class “C” felony. See Iowa Code Ann. § 709.4 (2001). The evidence shows that he pled “not guilty.” Thereafter,
on March 9, 1999, the court found that the individual suffered from a mental disorder
which prevented him from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings, or
effectively assisting in his defense. Thus, all criminal proceedings were ceased and
a hearing was set to determine whether the charged individual's release would endanger
the public. On May 7, 1999, a mental evaluation was ordered and on October 20, 1999,
the accused was found not competent to stand trial. The parties agreed that his release
was a danger to the public and he was committed, in civil court, for treatment pursuant
to Iowa Code section 812.4. All further criminal proceedings were stayed. On January
24, 2000, the court found that the accused was mentally retarded and ordered his immediate
placement in the Glenwood State Hospital. Finally, on March 16, 2000, the court dismissed
all charges against the individual. There is no evidence that the accused ever entered
a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI).
Pursuant to Pub. L. No. 103-387 (1994), which became effective for benefits payable
in February 1995, the Social Security Act (Act), as amended, provides:
(A) no monthly benefits will be paid to individuals for any month during which he
is confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution or correctional facility
pursuant to his conviction of an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than
one year (regardless of the actual sentence imposed) or is confined by court order
in an institution at public expense in connection with
a verdict or finding that he is guilty but insane, with respect to an offense punishable
by imprisonment for more than one year
a verdict or finding that he is not guilty of the offense by reason of insanity
a verdict or finding that he is incompetent to stand trial for the alleged offense
a similar verdict or finding with respect to such an offense based on similar factors
such as mental disease, mental defect, or mental incompetence.
(B) (i) for purposes of (A)(i), the individual is not considered confined during any
month throughout which he is residing outside the institution at no expense (other
than the cost of monitoring) to the institution, penal system, or any agency to which
the penal system has transferred jurisdiction over the individual.
(ii) for purposes of (A)(ii), the individual is considered as remaining confined until
he is released from the care and supervision of the institution and the institution
ceases to meet the individual's basic living needs 42 U.S.C. §402(x)(1)(1994).
The Act was amended again in 1999. Effective for confinements beginning on April 1,
2001, the Act at section 402(x)(1)(A)(i) no longer requires conviction of a crime
punishable by more than one year. Rather, the current law provides that no monthly
benefits will be paid to individuals for any month during a continuous 30 day confinement
during which the individual is:
confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution or correctional facility pursuant
to a conviction of a criminal offense
confined by court order in an institution at public expense in connection with
a verdict or finding that he is guilty but insane,
a verdict or finding that he is not guilty by reason of insanity,
a finding that he is incompetent to stand trial, or
(IV) a similar verdict or finding with respect to such an offense based on similar
factors (such as mental disease, a mental defect, or mental incompetence or immediately
upon completion of confinement as described in (i) pursuant to conviction of a crime
an element of which is sexual activity, is confined by court order in an institution
at public expense pursuant to a finding that he is a sexually dangerous person or
a sexual predator or a similar finding.
42 U.S.C. § 402(x)(1)(1999) (emphasis added). The definition of when confinement ends
Because the individual at issue was confined and found incompetent to stand trial
on October 20, 1999, which is prior to the effective date of the 1999 amendments,
the relevant provisions are found in the Act, as amended in 1994, at 42 U.S.C. §402(x)(1)(A)(ii)(III)
and (B)(ii). The regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 404.468, which contain the Title II prisoner
suspension provisions are not applicable. As detailed above, the Act was amended in
1994 and, while the regulations were amended in 1997, the changes were not substantive.
Thus, our regulations do not reflect the current state of the law.
In the case presented for review, the individual was declared incompetent to stand
trial and was confined by court order on October 20, 1999. The information provided
shows that he is still confined at public expense. Therefore, he was confined by court
order, at public expense, in connection with a finding that he was incompetent to
stand trial. Thus, his benefits should be suspended as of October 20, 1999, until
such time as he is no longer confined as defined above, regardless of the court's
TITLE XVI BENEFITS
Likewise, for purposes of Title XVI benefits, the individual is not eligible for benefits
during any month he is an inmate of a public institution. See 42 U.S.C. §1382. A resident of a public institution is the same thing as an inmate
of a public institution. See 20 C.F.R. §416.201 (2001). Public institutions are establishments, operated or controlled
by the Federal government, State, or political subdivision of a State such as a city
or county, which make available some treatment or services in addition to food and
shelter to four or more persons who are not related to the proprietor. Id. To be considered a resident, the individual must receive “substantially all” of his
food and shelter while living in the public institution, regardless of who pays for
the food, shelter, and other services. Id. In this case, Glenwood Resource Center and Woodward Resource Center are designated
as state centers which provide treatment, training, instruction, care, habilitation,
and support for those with mental retardation or other disabilities by the Iowa Code.
See Iowa Code Ann. § 222.1 (2001). Thus, the individual at issue is confined as a resident
of a public institution. The Act also provides that the individual must be confined
at the public's expense. See 42 U.S.C. §1382(e). Based on the facts of this case, the individual is not responsible
for the cost of his care.
Therefore, he is a resident of a public institution, at the public's expense, and
his Title XVI benefits should be suspended beginning with the month he was confined.
We hope that this memorandum answers your questions.
Frank V. S~ III
Chief Counsel, Region VII
Pamela J. M~
Assistant Regional Counsel