Today, the House Ways and Means subcommittee held a hearing about Supplemental Security Income Benefits for children with disabilities, to consider the program’s future. Currently SSI provides monthly cash assistance to those who are disabled, blind or elderly and who have little income and few assets; the program provides cash for such basic needs as food, clothing and shelter. In September of 2011, 8 million people collected SSI benefits, including 1.3 million children under 18.
That lawmakers should be considering not to continue such benefits is a sad sign of where our country is now. Kathy Ruffing, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explains some things lawmakers, and the general public, should know about the very real benefits of SSI for children with disabilities.
Like most parents of children with disabilities, I know there is always something more that’s needed, be it funds for sitters or therapists or for purchasing some equipment or medication. We are fortunate to have insurance but the doctors and specialists (in particular, the pediatric neurologist and the dentist) we take our 14-year-old son Charlie who’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum to are not covered under our health plan. It’s worth it to pay out of pocket as Charlie’s behavior issues and his functioning at school are closely tied to his health. Of course that’s true for people children generally but Charlie’s very limited speech means he can’t tell us if he has a toothache or some such, hence being pro-active (i.e., having regular dental checkups) is crucial.
The benefits from SSI are modest but still go a long way towards making a crucial difference in someone family’s, in some child’s, life and all the more so for a child with disabilities. Why take away more from those who already have many and complex needs?
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