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SSI program scrutinized for expansion

Supplemental Security Income, though less well-known than Social Security disability benefits, is an important benefit program aimed at assisting disabled adults and children with “limited income and resources.” Unlike Social Security disability, Supplemental Security Income is not a social insurance program but a welfare program. Given that the program paid out roughly $20 billion over the last two years, it should come as no surprise that it has come under scrutiny.

At this point, Supplemental Security Income has become the largest source of income for poor families nationwide, outstripping many standard welfare programs. Currently, about 1.3 million children are on the SSI roles. Most of them have some sort of behavioral, learning or mental disorder.Â

Some of the same criticisms that have been leveled about the Social Security disability program are now being made about Supplemental Security Income. Among them are: it is too easy for poor families to obtain disability diagnoses for children and obtain benefits; the requirements for receiving benefits are not strict enough; and there isn’t enough of a focus on getting beneficiaries off of the disability role.

Not all of these criticisms are completely unfounded. To be sure, it is important for public policy to address the underlying problems behind the surge, as well as the program’s sustainability. That being said, it is also important for those who could really benefit from the program to understand their right to apply without feeling guilty.

Families with children who could benefit from receiving SSI may find it helpful to work with an attorney who understands the application process and the appeals process for the program. Doing so gives them a better shot at much needed benefits.

Source: Boston Globe, “Aid to disabled children now outstrips welfare,” Patricia Wen, August 28, 2014.Â

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