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SSA: Child's total arm paralysis is bad, but not enough for SSI

Do a Google news search for the words Social Security disability and you're likely to find results right near the top that feature invitations by Social Security Administration officials declaring how they're there to help those who are disabled.

As attorneys experienced with the processes of applying for Social Security disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits know, though, such invitations aren't an open door to easy street. Federal government funding troubles make for slow reviews. Denials are common. Appeals can be long, and the process can seem fruitless.

Sometimes there are no easy answers to why denials have been issued and the only course is persistence with an attorney's help.

Frustration is perhaps a good word to describe what a family of three in Philadelphia is experiencing in their effort to get SSI help. By all accounts, they could be the poster family for how the program can help those in dire financial straits keep their heads above water.

The household is made up of a mother, father, and 2-year-old girl whose left arm is a lifeless limb due to Klumpke's palsy -- the result of an injury during her delivery. A lawsuit is pending regarding the injury, but is unresolved. The mother puts in 50 hours a week at two jobs. The father recently got laid off from a fast-food restaurant job he'd had.

The family's income currently is well below what experts say is the poverty level for a family of three ($19,530). They say they are $1,300 behind on the rent. And despite being on Medicaid, the girl is not getting all the therapy recommended to help her.

They have applied for SSI benefits for the child. And though one judge reportedly has conceded that the child has no movement in her affected arm, can't participate in games that require two hands, and has balance issues that require her to need support for normal activities, she's not disabled enough to warrant benefits.

The family's claim has been rejected three times. Officials haven't said why and won't comment on the case.

While SSA officials go out of their way to tout the availability of their services, experts observe that in 2012 less than one quarter of all children with disabilities received SSI. And only 14 percent of low-income families with disabled children get the SSI help they are supposedly due.

Source: Philly.com, "Disability of 2-year-old raises questions on federal aid programs," Alfred Lubrano, Nov. 5, 2013

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