Child Behavior Problems & SSI
karenoz at u.washington.edu
Fri Jan 26 17:26:10 PST 1996
Senators Seek Changes in Childhood Disability Programs
The Associated Press (copyright)
BY JENNIFER DIXON
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senators from both parties introduced a bill Thursday to
tighten eligibility rules for children with behavior problems who seek
federal disability benefits.
The senators' legislation would preserve cash benefits for children from
low-income families under the Supplemental Security Income program for the
elderly and disabled. SSI is the fastest-growing federal welfare program.
But, the bill also would hold parents more accountable for seeking
treatment for their children's disability. It would crack down on adults
who coach children to act up in school or deliberately fail tests to
qualify for a maximum monthly federal check of $458.
The House, responding to criticism that children with behavior problems
and marginal disabilities were receiving SSI, voted in March to replace
cash assistance with services in all but the most serious cases of
childhood disability. The Senate legislation, introduced by Democrats Kent
Conrad of North Dakota and Bill Bradley of New Jersey, and Republicans
James Jeffords of Vermont and John Chafee of Rhode Island, comes as the
Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to take up welfare reform later this
Jeffords said the Senate bill would combat the current problem that
children who are not severely disabled are drawing benefits.'' At the same
time, he said, it would provide benefits to those truly in need and do
more to help children move toward self-sufficiency.
The number of children who receive SSI has nearly tripled since the late
1980s, in part because a Supreme Court decision relaxed eligibility rules.
There were 837,000 children on the rolls at the end of last year, at a
yearly cost to taxpayers of about $4.7 billion.
SSI benefits in some parts of the country are so common they are known as
``crazy checks,'' according to lawmakers, and there are no limits on the
number of children in a family who can receive their own monthly check.
Some lawmakers claim parents are coaching their children to fake mental
and behavioral problems when applying for SSI, and complain that there are
no incentives for parents to seek treatment for their children once they
qualify for assistance.
The Senate legislation would gradually cut the amount paid to each
additional child in a family, with exceptions for children who are
institutionalized, and for families adopting children with special needs.
Conrad called SSI the ``program of last resort'' for hundreds of thousands
of children with severe disabilities. The cash assistance, he said, helps
families cope with the added costs of disability, from transportation
expenses for frequent trips to doctors to the loss of income when a parent
must give up a job to stay at home with the child.
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