Today, Congressman Geoff Davis (R-KY), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, announced the release of a report prepared at his request by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, titled “Supplemental Security Income: Better Management Oversight Needed for Children’s Benefits,” reviews caseload increases for children with mental impairments and how disability determinations are made for children applying for cash assistance under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
The report was initiated by a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress, including Chairman Davis, because of concerns raised in the November 2010 Boston Globe series on increases in children’s disability payments under the SSI program.
In response to the report, Chairman Davis said: “This report confirms how difficult disability determinations can be to make. Unfortunately, according to the report, not enough is being done to manage the process to ensure consistency in those decisions. GAO has provided some useful recommendations to improve the quality of the medical evidence so that children who need benefits are found to be eligible. However, these decisions should not go unchecked. SSA has a responsibility to both the children and families on or trying to get on the program, as well as to taxpayers, to provide benefits only when medically and financially necessary and appropriate.”
The GAO report found that the number of child applicants and beneficiaries with mental impairments has increased substantially for more than a decade, even though the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied on average 54 percent of such claims from fiscal years 2000 to 2010. The report noted that disability determinations are based on a number of factors, and that increased information sharing with teachers and schools could improve the quality of disability decisions. Finally, GAO found that Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) for children with mental impairments have decreased by 80 percent since fiscal year 2001, resulting in more than 400,000 of them currently being overdue. From the over 24,000 CDRs found to be six or more years overdue, 25 percent were for children expected to medically improve within 30 months of their initial determination.