The Future of Children: Children with Disabilities

Yesterday, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the latest issue of The Future of Children, examining the increasing impact of childhood disability. Ron Haskins, Co-Director from the Center on Children and Families at Brookings, facilitated the briefing and presented findings from the new volume and an accompanying policy brief. Other panelists included Kenneth Apfel, Professor at the University of Maryland; Marty Ford, Chief Public Policy Officer at the Arc; Matt Weidinger from the Committee on Ways and Means; Mary Daly of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Jonathan Stein from the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. The briefing largely focused on examining the efficacy of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and outlining potential reforms. The panelists also discussed the challenges with respect to demonstrating SSI eligibility for families with children who have severe disabilities.

Haskins revealed that the two publicized requirements for children to be eligible for SSI are low-income and suffering from a disability.  However, the stipulations for admissions are more complicated and therefore the approval rate is about 40% which suggests that the majority of applicants are rejected. Weidinger shared recent Hill activities, including a subcommittee hearing last fall on children’s issues as they relate to the SSI program. Ford explained that one of the biggest problems with SSI is the income requirement that families have to be under the poverty rate in order to qualify.

In response to recent legislative proposals, panelists argued that block granting funding streams like SSI and Medicaid would devastate the opportunities for families to access the care they need. Furthermore, the House Budget Committee proposes cuts of up to $3.5 billion to SSI benefits which would negatively affect programs that serve children with disabilities and their families. Panelists also discussed opportunities for Congress to consider ways to increase revenues for these programs and perhaps compromise on where cuts are possible in some other areas.

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