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Congress to Begin Investigation into SSI for Children

Last month, we extensively discussed the many perceived problems with the Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income programs for children. Specifically, it is alleged that the allure of the monthly income and free medical care has motivated parents to place their children on psychiatric drugs they do not need because they think that being prescribed such medication is a near-requirement for qualification. In addition, we examined the increase of children qualifying for SSD and SSI based on mental, behavioral and learning disorders, and how that number has increased from 8 to 50 percent of all children receiving SSD or SSI in the past 20 years.

Following the detailed news articles that gave rise to our blog posts, several members of Congress took notice of the alleged problems with the children's programs, and have pledged to launch an investigation into them. Currently, the federal children's disability programs have an average annual price tag of $10 billion, and they are quickly growing in both size and cost.

After the articles' publication, several U.S. legislators, including the chair of the powerful House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee that oversees Social Security programs, are working together to look into the allegations against SSD. Specifically, the group has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the increase in children receiving SSI based on mental impairments, as well as whether families use medication to sway their chances of receiving SSI benefits. In addition, the group is seeking an investigation of whether the Social Security Administration is equipped to perform initial and ongoing screening of children who apply for and receive SSI.

In addition, Representative Richard Neal says that Congress will likely hold hearings on the issue long before the Government Accountability Office completes its investigation. Neal says that he anticipates the process to be a bipartisan effort. "The mental health issues of children are far removed from day-to-day political differences," he said.

Source: Boston Globe, "Some in Congress look at incentives in disability benefit", Patricia Wen, 18 January 2011

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