The legal system considers a defendant IST when the defendant, because of a mental
illness or a developmental disability, is unable to understand their legal situation
or assist in preparing for their 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, they return to court to face criminal charges.
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 them 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
a crime. Joan's attorney was concerned about Joan's mental state and petitioned the
court to declare Joan IST because Joan was not able to help in Joan's defense. The
judge ordered Joan to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment to determine
if Joan was competent to stand trial. Joan’s evaluation determined that Joan was now
capable of aiding in Joan's own defense. Joan's condition was temporary and the court
found Joan was competent to stand trial. We will suspend Joan's benefits if the court
convicts Joan in the criminal trial and confines Joan for more than 30 continuous
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 Bob 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 Bob IST and
confined 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.