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Increasing Number of Young Children Qualify for SSI, Part Two

On Wednesday, we began a closer look at SSI for children, and the increasing numbers of toddlers receiving SSI benefits for delayed speech and similar behavioral and mental disorders. While it is largely undisputed that young children do suffer from speech delays, critics of the program claim that the SSA is ill-equipped to handle the growing load of SSI recipients, and subsequently, that it is failing to monitor children and potentially remove the SSI benefits of children who no longer qualify for them.

A typical, full SSI disability is required to receive a full medical review by a Social Security official at least every three years. According to government data, the SSA has progressively fallen short of this goal over the past ten years. From 2000 to 2008, only approximately 10 percent of the children receiving SSI benefits received the required review. From 2007 to the present, the rates of review have been below one percent.

SSA data shows that approximately 40 percent of children who received SSI until they turned 18 did not receive a single review. It is significant that, of the children who did receive reevaluations, approximately one-fourth no longer qualified for SSI benefits under the SSA's disability standards.

Therefore, it seems that the SSA is missing an opportunity to help children get rid of the disability stigma and learn to cope without the monthly benefits, as well as help the overburdened SSI program save some money. Yet according to David Rust of the agency's office of retirement and disability policy, the SSA is doing the best it can amidst an influx of new applications. "For the system we run and the volume of cases we handle, we do a very credible job," he said, noting that there were 550,000 new applications last year, representing an increase of 15 percent over the previous year.

Rust admits that the lack of disability reviews is a huge problem, but says that the SSA lacks both financial support and the necessary staff to remedy the situation. Until that changes, it is unlikely that the SSA will be able to revise its processes.

Source: Boston Globe, "A coveted benefit, a failure to follow up", Patricia Wen, 12 December 2010

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