According to a recent segment on NPR’s Morning Edition, a main target of the nationwide budget deficit-cutting effort could be the Children’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Children’s SSI provides a check each month to low-income children with severe disabilities. The rate of children on SSI has rapidly expanded—nearly quadrupled—within the last 30 years to include children with mental, behavioral and learning disorders like ADHD, speech delays, autism and bipolar disorder. In fact, children with ADHD (or “other mental disorders”) now make up more than half of recipients of SSI. This growth is attributed to a national increase in child poverty as well as increased access to health care for children, who get diagnosed earlier and more frequently with disabilities.
Recently, Children’s SSI has been confronted with the criticism that the program has been and is being overused. Critics claim that the SSI program has become “the Other Welfare,” and that low-income families are turning to SSI as a more general welfare program once they are no longer eligible for Welfare benefits. In the face of this mounting criticism, critics of SSI propose limiting benefits for children with ADHD for example, a proposal which could save the federal government $1.4 billion over the next 10 years and aid in trimming the national deficit.
However, children advocates explain that limiting these benefits would target a critical lifeline for very vulnerable children. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law responded to the allegations with a campaign to lobby Congress in defense of the SSI program. Bazelon fully supports the SSI disability program by refuting the unsubstantiated claims about SSI overuse, and has succeeded in garnering the support of senators who have issued press releases and written letters to President Obama in opposition to the proposed cuts.