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SSI benefits for children under scrutiny

Newark families who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits for their disabled children know how important those payments can be. However, claims of fraud have the Social Security Administration looking more closely at the SSI program.

The Institute of Medicine will begin a study in the coming months to identify patterns of fraud and abuse, particularly in applications for children. Officials have noticed that a majority of SSI claims for children are concentrated in cities with low incomes and high unemployment. They are concerned that some parents could be providing false information and receiving benefits for children who are not disabled.

The increased attention to rooting out fraud likely stems from strained resources. Social Security disability applications have increased by about thirty percent during the recession. Budget cuts, however, forced the agency to lay off 7,000 of its 65,000 employees.

All applications for Social Security disability benefits are scrutinized by the agency. The general criteria for evaluating claims are the same for adults and children. However, issues arise in SSI applications for children because the guidelines for adults are often related to a person's ability to work. This kind of criteria is often not applicable to children.

The federal budget for the children's SSI program is currently $10 billion. A child whose physical or mental disability causes severe functional limitations for 12 months or more may be eligible for SSI. Monthly benefits can be as much as about $600.

Despite the government's concerns, children who meet the criteria for SSI should be entitled to benefits. An experienced attorney can assist families with what can be a complicated application process and work to get them the benefits they deserve.

Source: The Republican, "Social Security and Supplemental Security Income for children raise questions for U.S. Rep. Richard Neal," Jim Kinney, Feb. 13, 2012

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