Will Congress Cut SSI Benefits For Children With Disabilities?

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.

  • While the number of children receiving SSI benefits has grown since the mid-1990s, it is not exactly growing by leaps and bounds. About 1.6 percent of all US children collect SSI. Reasons for the growth include the rising rate of child poverty as well as in advances in the early diagnosis of medical and psychiatric conditions (autism, bipolar disorder).
  • To qualify for SSI benefits, families must provide evidence from qualified medical professionals (physicians, licensed or certified psychologists, and certain other experts such as speech pathologists). A child’s impairments must be the same, or equal in severity, to disabling conditions compiled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) — and only about 40 percent of applications receive approval.
  • Children in the program have their cases reviewed at least every three years to determine if they are still eligible. Benefits are terminated in about 20 percent of cases and about half for low-birthweight babies. Children over 18 are considered under a special review that ends benefits for one-third of children.
  • The SSI payment also helps to life most recipients out of poverty. Without the SSI payment (average benefit: $588/month; maximum benefit: $674/month), most families are below the poverty line.

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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Ronald W.
RONALD Walker6 years ago

Let me understand what i have just read. We cut tax's to the rich and then cut SSI help for one of the most needed of people in the USA and that is called Christian conservative thinking. I'm I the only person that thinks this wrong?

Richard Lares
Richard Lares6 years ago

My child is 14 and not going to be able to work. He can eat and talk very little and shacks all the time. I do not see him able to ever get a job put pray he someday will. For he will have to go to a group home when 18 during the day for he will be out of school. The rates for this very but I see from $1200 to $2400 a month. They need help to get by I wish he was able to provide for his self but we have to be real about it.

Heather G.
Heather G6 years ago

Frank, a lack of compassion is thinking that taking benefits away from disabled children is going to make your own life better!! The reality is: it won't.

Robert P.
Robert P6 years ago

All this from kompassionate kreestian profifers?

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson6 years ago


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago

Why are the most vulnerable always targeted?!

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey6 years ago

Federal income taxes make up only 18 percent of the taxes collected in this country. When you include all taxes – not just those that erase working people's contributions – you see that we really have something close to a flat tax. That’s the conclusion of a 2007 study by Boston University economists Laurence J. Kotlikoff and David Rapson, who found that when you add it all up — state and local taxes, federal taxes and excise fees – “The average marginal tax rate on incomes between $20,000 and $500,000 is 40.3%, the median tax rate is 41.8%, and the standard deviation of all of those rates is 5.3 percentage points. Basically, most of us pay about 40%, plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.”

The FACT is, when you figure taxes paid as a percentage of income, those in and below the poverty level actually pay more than 420 times MORE tax than the upper 1%. So enough with the b-s about "tax the poor to make them pay their fair share." They are paying MORE than their fair share.

Linda T.
Linda T6 years ago

This congress has shown themselves as cold hearted, hate mongers, we stand for the rich only, so anything they do surprises no one.

Gina P.
Regina P6 years ago

SSI isn't a lot of money to raise some of these children. I would rather see the money cut from adults who work on the side while receiving SSI or have unprovable "bad backs" and just want drugs.

Mark Stevenson
Mark S6 years ago

This is horrible. What's next? Euthanasia for those that are disabled? At least that is more humane than letting them starve to death. I know!! Mandatory sterilization of poor people!! That will solve the problem!!