Citizens as well as politicians have long been voicing their discontent with the practices of the Title XVI program run by the Social Security Administration, but the growing universal concern over the impending bankruptcy of Social Security has led to more public outcry over the abuses of the program and how it is contributing to the financially instability of the system. Many are claiming that the adult SSI program is being used by many Social Security Administration judges as a sort of extended unemployment, and that the children’s SSI program is being abused by parents who manipulate the system.
Last December, Globe aired an investigation series they did on the SSI program entitled “The Other Welfare.” The major concerns raised by the report were the apparent digression of the program from its purpose of serving severely physically disabled children and adults to serving those with mental and learning disorders, and the impression that the use of certain medications increases a child’s chance of getting approved for SSI. This of course sparked requests for investigations at the federal level, many of which are underway.
The results of the Globe investigation even have the Social Security Administration admitting the need for its program to be evaluated. Just last week, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Michael Astrue, publicly expressed his desire to conduct an unbiased and thorough scientific investigation of the inner workings of the children’s SSI program, based on his conviction that there may be serious flaws that need to be rectified. He is appealing to Congress for approval, stressing that the investigation be done by an unbiased, professional organization, such as the Institute of Medicine.
Preliminary investigations into whether children on medication for ADHD are more likely to be approved for SSI benefits have indicated that such claims are unfounded based on available statistics. As it is, medicated ADHD children are not more likely than non-medicated ADHD children to receive SSI benefits. However, Astrue makes the point that the very fact that people think it plays a role is a problem.
One potential indicator of the inappropriate award of SSI is that a large percentage of children receiving benefits no longer qualify once they reach 18 and are subject to the adult requirements, leading to the conclusion that most of these children should not have been eligible for SSI to begin with. The problem, Astrue states, is the parents who perceive that the use of medication and enrollment in special education will make their child more likely to receive a favorable ruling for SSI.
This leads to unnecessarily medicated children who do not in actuality have special learning needs. Sadly, the potential to receive SSI income based on a child’s disability diagnosis can be an incentive for desperate parents to try to cheat the system.
Regardless of the outcome, the recent call by the Social Security Administration’s own commissioner for a thorough investigation and potential revamp of the SSI program provides hope for widespread reform of the practices that have led to a woefully inefficient, overloaded, and underfunded system of disability benefits.