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Murder in the Cathedral Revisited: President Reagan and the Mentally Disabled
Howard H. Goldman; Antoinette A. Gattozzi
Psychiatric Services 1988; doi:
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The authors appreciate the willingness of their informants to respond forth- rightly to their inquiries, and are especially grateful to Dr. Stephen Jencks for his insightful comments on this paper.

Mental Health Policy Studies Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21201

American Psychiatric Association

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Abstract

A key objective of the Reagan administration when it took office in 1981 was to decrease domestic spending. Intending to offer the new administration "a little bit of a present," employees in the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, identified ineligible Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries as a possible source of billions of dollars of savings annu- ally. Subsequently the administration's Office of Management and Budget instructed the Social Security Administration to begin, on an accelerated schedule, eligibility reviews authorized by the Social Security Amendments of 1980. One-fourth of the 130,500 beneficiaries dropped from the rolls during the first full year of the reviews were mentally impaired, although the mentally impaired constituted only one-ninth of SSDI beneficiaries. The reaction by mental health advocacy groups, Congress, and the courts turned "a little bit of a present" into a major problem for the administration, and the various components of government that had consorted on a misguided policy began to make amends. The experience offers useful insights for future policymaking.

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