Thursday, October 27, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee had a hearing on SSI benefits for children with disabilities. This hearing is said to be a result of a study conducted and reported by the Boston Globe last December calling SSI “the other welfare”.
Subcommittee Chair Geoff Davis, (R-KY) convened the hearing stating that he is focused on the oversight of SSI benefits for children with disabilities. Some of his concerns stated were of program growth and recipient outcomes. Davis is quoted as saying “SSI today offers monthly checks without any requirement that benefits be spent on helping the child overcome his or her disability.”
Davis stated that SSI benefits for children are growing rapidly in addition to already being of significant size. He explained that the growth has been driven by mental and behavioral impairments. These impairments include attention deficit hyperactive disorder, autism, learning disabiilities, and speech and language disorders and delays. Over 60 percent of children with disabilitieson SSI will continue collecting payments at and beyond the age of 18.
RepresentativeLloyd Doggett (D-TX) addressed the committee. While he agreedand shared the goal of ensuring effective and efficient administration of SSI, he also defended SSI for children with disabilities. He stated, “I hope we are not now going to hear Republicans blame disabled children for their disability.” He went on to say that SSI benefits are available to help low-income families with children who suffer from severe physical or mental disabilities or blindness to meet their basic needs. You can read his full opening statement by clicking here.
As reported by the Children’s Monitor, Dr. Elizabeth Roberts, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, stated that she has seen an alarming abuse of the SSI system. She testified that the misdiagnosis of children with psychiatric conditions coupled with mental illness has led to abuse. This was challenged by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), whom is also a child psychologist and he urged her to report any abuse.
At times during the hearing there was tension. The Republicans and Democrats repeatedly expressed that any talk of changes was not directed towards the families dealing with children with severe disabilities. They expressed sympathy toward a withness, a Texas mother and her 8-year-old autistic son, who explained how SSI enabled her to stop working to care for her son’s conditions, including seizures.
Overall, most lawmakers expressed that they wanted to focus on any fraud and abuse of the program. There is a proposal to perhaps have state take over the administration of SSI. Any changes that might be made will not be made until 2012.
Subcommittee Chair Geoff Davis, (R-KY) opened the hearing with a statement that he is focused on oversight of SSI benefits for children, including trends, program growth, and recipient outcomes. He expressed concerns that too many children on SSI drop out of school, experience poor employment outcomes, and continue receiving disability payments year after year even into adulthood. The Subcommittee is reviewing how the SSI program is currently coming up short and possible remedies. Davis has asked the Government Accountability Office to review the program.