Protecting children's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits is one of the Bazelon Center's top priorities. This section explains children's SSI and provides the hard data about children with mental disorders who are enrolled in SSI. You can also find our SSI Call-for-Stories and read about families' experiences.
SSI provides cash assistance to families of children with physical and mental impairments that result in severe functional limitations. Eligibility for SSI also makes people eligible for Medicaid coverage in nearly all states. Children’s SSI disability benefits are now under threat in Congress and the benefits of children with serious mental health disorders are particularly targeted. This activity is being fueled by misleading media reports and distortions about the families whose children qualify for SSI.
SSI is a critical program for very low-income families struggling to meet their children’s needs. Studies have consistently shown that the economic burdens on families of children with severe mental health disorders are often even greater than the financial hardships facing families of children with other types of medical disorders. The SSI cash benefit enables these families to access the services necessary for children to live with their families in their community, not in institutions. These benefits are also essential to preventing families from falling deeper into poverty.
There are many unsubstantiated claims that have circulated recently in the media and these may well lead to devastating cuts to the program being enacted as part of deficit reduction. Already, the House has passed a budget resolution that includes $1.4 billion over 10 years in SSI cuts, based on these unsubstantiated assertions, targeted specifically to children with mental health disorders.
To counter these misguided proposals, the Bazelon Center convened and continues to chair the SSI Coalition for Children and Families, an extensive network of organizations working to preserve SSI for low-income children with challenging conditions.