The GAO has published a new report on the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for children. The report affirms that the Social Security Administration (SSA) applies stringent criteria to evaluating applications, denying a majority of children who apply. GAO’s findings highlight several important facts about the program.
Notably, the GAO found that the share of children awarded SSI for mental impairments has remained stable for over a decade, at about 65% from 2000 to 2010. What changed were the diagnoses within the mental impairment category. For example, the proportion of children receiving SSI due to an intellectual disability fell significantly, from 51 percent of all mental impairment claims in 2000 to 15 percent in 2011. At the same time, the rates of more specific diagnoses, such as autism, rose dramatically.
Additionally, children taking medications for certain mental impairments are less likely to be approved for SSI. When no medication was reported, children with ADHD, speech and language delay, and autism were denied about 47 percent of the time and approved about 53 percent of the time at the initial application level. When medication was reported, 65 percent were denied and 35 percent were approved.
Finally, the GAO reported that the number of children applying for and receiving SSI has increased due to several factors, including the dramatic rise in child poverty over the last decade.