Earlier today the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for children. Subcommittee Chair Geoff Davis, (R-KY) opened the hearing with a statement that he is focused on oversight of SSI benefits for children, including trends, program growth, and recipient outcomes. He expressed concerns that too many children on SSI drop out of school, experience poor employment outcomes, and continue receiving disability payments year after year even into adulthood. The Subcommittee is reviewing how the SSI program is currently coming up short and possible remedies. Davis has asked the Government Accountability Office to review the program.
Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) is the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. He stated that he shares the goals of ensuring the effective and efficient administration of SSI. He offered suggestions such as providing adequate resources to conduct continuing disability reviews to ensure that SSI recipients maintain their eligibility for benefits, and increasing educational and employment opportunities for disabled children as get they older.
One of the witnesses, Dr. Elizabeth Roberts, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, stated that she has seen an alarming abuse of the SSI system. She testified that the misdiagnosis of children with psychiatric conditions coupled with the financial incentive under SSI for getting children diagnosed with mental illness has led to abuse. Dr. Roberts was challenged on her assertions by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), who is also a child psychologist. He urged her to report any and all abuse she has seen, especially any that is maltreatment or unethical.
Katie Bentley, the mother of a young boy who suffers from multiple serious disorders and is an SSI recipient, also testified. She spoke of how the SSI benefits have given her son opportunities that would not be available otherwise and how much he has improved as a result.