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Could lax SSA reviews affect New Jersey child benefits?

Readers of this blog will recall our discussion in February regarding an investigation of SSI benefits by the Institute of Medicine. The Government Accountability Office has also conducted its own investigation and has released a draft report.

New Jersey kids who receive Supplemental Security Income represent only a small part of the $10 billion program serving disabled children. The GAO's draft report, released on May 24, claims the Social Security Administration has not kept tabs on the 400,000 beneficiaries with mental, learning and behavioral disorders. The GAO asserts that many families continue to receive monthly benefits even after improvement in their children's impairment.

The SSA claims that it does not have the funding necessary to revisit beneficiaries to see if they have improved.

SSI benefits for disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders and speech delays have become increasingly common in the last 10 years, even with a rejection rate of around half of all applications. These disorders, like many mental illnesses, are notoriously difficult to diagnose because the evaluation criteria are necessarily subjective.

More than half of all children receiving SSI suffer from mental impairments.

This report will be released next month after comments by lawmakers, Social Security officials and others.

The report also notes that around 64,000 children, or 5 percent of child SSI beneficiaries, live in homes with at least one other child receiving benefits. SSA regulations mandate increased scrutiny of these situations but investigators found that these cases often escaped the attention of the agency.

The SSA is usually supposed to review the cases of children on SSI every three years. The GAO report posits that for every single dollar the agency spends on reviews, it could save $9 in benefits expenditures by finding beneficiaries who are no longer qualified to receive SSI. ADHD, in particular, might be subject to particularly stringent scrutiny if the SSA implements the recommendations in the draft report.

Regardless of the GAO conclusions, New Jersey children are entitled to benefits if they meet the criteria for SSI.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Children's disability program lags on reviews, report says," Patricia Wen, May 24, 2012

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