Supplemental Security Income:

SSA Needs a Uniform Standard for Assessing Childhood Disability

HEHS-98-123: Published: May 6, 1998. Publicly Released: May 6, 1998.

Additional Materials:


Robert E. Robertson
(202) 512-9889


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided additional information on the Social Security Administration's (SSA) implementation of the new eligibility standard.

GAO noted that: (1) SSA has made considerable progress in implementing the welfare reform changes in eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) children; (2) it has taken important steps to safeguard fairness by identifying children whose benefits may have been terminated inappropriately and establishing remedial action to rereview their cases; (3) however, because SSA's medical listings reflect multiple levels of severity, SSA also needs to expedite updating and modifying its medical listings to ensure that all children are assessed against a uniform severity standard; (4) the need to revise the listings is a long-standing problem that GAO reported 3 years ago; (5) moreover, SSA needs to take concerted action to follow through on its plan for monitoring and continually improving the quality of decisions regarding children; and (6) consistent with its legislative mandate, GAO will continue to focus its work on SSA's efforts to provide reasonable assurance that it can administer the program consistently and improve the accuracy of childhood disability decisions.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Social Security Administration (SSA) is in the process of reviewing all its medical listings both for adults and children. SSA has stated that as it reviews the medical listings to bring them up-to-date with medical advances in diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation therapy, it will ensure that the revised childhood listings describe impairments that cause marked and severe functional limitations. SSA has revised or started to revise all of its childhood listings.

    Recommendation: In view of the fact that many of SSA's medical listings for children are outdated and allow eligibility to be based upon multiple standards of severity, the Commissioner of Social Security should immediately update and modify its medical listings to incorporate advances in medicine and science and to reflect a uniform standard of severity.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Jun 17, 2020

May 7, 2020

Apr 13, 2020

Feb 26, 2020

Dec 19, 2019

Dec 4, 2019

Nov 25, 2019

Oct 9, 2019

Jul 25, 2019

Jun 24, 2019

Looking for more? Browse all our products here