Most Disabled Children Facing Lifelong Government Dependency

by Colette Moran

The rise in the number of children receiving disability benefits in the last 40 years is shocking. 

[The] government is turning millions of kids into permanent wards of the state through the federal Supplemental Security Income program, which provides cash benefits to low-income families with a disabled child. …About 1.3 million disabled children received benefits at a cost of $9.3 billion in 2011 vs. 71,000 children at a cost of $40 million when the program began in 1974.

“Program growth increased most rapidly immediately following the 1990 Supreme Court decision in Sullivan v. Zebley, which greatly expanded disability eligibility criteria for children,” the researchers write. “Welfare reform in 1996 tightened eligibility standards and slightly reduced the rolls for one year. However, since that time, recipients and expenditures have steadily increased.” Indeed, poor parents have an incentive to get their kids diagnosed with disability.

That more children truly in need are being assisted is not necessarily bad, but more and more of these children are choosing a lifelong dependency.

Nearly two-thirds of SSI disabled children beneficiaries move directly onto SSI disabled adult rolls. Very few attempt to work thereafter. Moreover, only about 60% of those who do not move directly onto SSI disabled adult rolls are employed at age 19.

Thus, most SSI disabled children beneficiaries graduate from the program into what is likely to be permanent status as an SSI disabled adult beneficiary. And, if they are denied these benefits, they turn to other forms of welfare.

What to do? A few thoughts and links at the end of the piece found here.