Unfinished Business

Cutting Social Security Income Benefits Places the Burden of Deficit Reduction on Children with Disabilities

By Colleen Cowgill, a Fall 2011 intern

In a recent USA Today column, Susan Parish and James Perrin argued against proposed cuts to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children, asking “Are we a nation that balances our budget on the backs of children with severe disabilities and medical conditions?”

Due to strict medical and financial requirements, only 10 percent of children with disabilities receive SSI benefits. These children come from low-income families, and are subject to the most severe mental and physical impairments. Because of these restrictions for receiving benefits, a majority of children with disabilities applying for SSI are denied. During a recent House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, I heard the story of a mother of a child with disabilities who currently receives SSI benefits. The mother said that in order to take care of her son and take him to his numerous appointments, she was forced to step down from heading a small business. She and her husband had been determined to cover the cost of their son’s medical care on their own, but they reached out to SSI once it became evident that they would no longer be able to afford the medical care their son needed.

With the money they receive from SSI, the family is now able to give their son opportunities he would otherwise likely never have received. From not being able to feed himself or verbally communicate, their son is now able to dress himself, spell his name, and is even learning to read. These are things that would not have been possible without SSI, and this is only one case of hundreds where SSI has allowed a child to flourish beyond what their family thought possible.

As Parish and Perrin state in their column, “Congress should look for ways to support our nation’s most vulnerable children and families, instead of painting a target on their backs in the name of deficit reduction.”