Social Security:

Rapid Rise in Children on SSI Disability Rolls Follows New Regulations

HEHS-94-225: Published: Sep 9, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the increase in children receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, focusing on the increase in benefits: (1) for mental impairments; and (2) based on the new functional assessment process.

GAO found that: (1) in the last 4 years, the number of children receiving SSI benefits more than doubled after the Social Security Administration changed the eligibility criteria for benefits; (2) the new regulations place more emphasis on how children's mental and functional impairments limit their ability to act appropriately for their age; (3) 70 percent of children receive benefits under strict SSI medical standards; (4) the new functional assessment process has accounted for only about 30 percent of all SSI awards since its implementation and for 41 percent of the increase in SSI awards; (5) more than two-thirds of the increase in SSI awards is due to the qualifying mental impairments of children, predominantly mental retardation; and (6) SSI benefits for behavior problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorders, and pervasive developmental disorders are increasing.

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