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Advocates seek to dispel claims of misconduct in SSI program

Recently, we wrote several blog posts on a series of Boston Globe articles which discussed some of the claimed failings of the Supplemental Security Income program that gives a monthly stipend to disabled children and their families. Those Boston Globe articles ultimately gave rise to a congressional investigation into SSI. Now, legislators are pledging to examine the claims of a disproportionate rise in the number of children receiving SSI for mental disorders and the allegations that parents are unnecessarily medicating their children just to be eligible for SSI.

In an attempt to rebut some of the claims made in the original series of articles, two legal advocates recently wrote an editorial in the Globe, alleging that the articles painted an unfair and incorrect picture of the SSI program for children and its recipients. The editorial's authors, Jonathan M. Stein and Rebecca Vallas, have represented the low-income population in court cases and other legal matters connected to SSI programs.

Stein and Vallas likened the Globe series to a similar media focus which occurred in the mid-1990s and which also claimed that parents were manipulating the system in order to ensure their children qualified for SSI. As a result of that media frenzy, the authors say, hundreds of thousands of deserving, disabled children lost their SSI benefits.

In response to the troubling allegations that parents placed their children on harmful and unnecessary medications in order that they would qualify for SSI, Stein and Vallas argue that medication is just one of the many factors that are considered in the disability evaluation process. The authors also addressed the articles' recognition of the growing number of children receiving SSI for mental disabilities. "More children today get SSI for so-called invisible disabilities such as autism and developmental delay," the authors said, "because mental impairments have shed their stigma, and more children are now properly diagnosed and treated for them."

Source: Boston Globe, "Program is critical for low-income disabled youth", 29 January 2011

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