The Social Security Administration's (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides cash benefits to eligible low-income disabled individuals, including children, as well as certain others. Children may generally qualify for SSI benefits if they meet certain financial requirements and are deemed to have a qualifying medically determinable physical or mental impairment of a specified duration or severity that results in a functional limitation. In 2010, SSA paid more than $9 billion to about 1.2 million disabled children. Over the past decade, the overall number of children receiving SSI benefits has continued to rise. In this statement, GAO discusses initial observations from its ongoing review and examines (1) the trends in the rate of children receiving SSI benefits due to mental impairments over the past decade; (2) the role that medical and nonmedical information, such as medication and school records, play in the initial determination of a child's medical eligibility; and (3) the steps SSA has taken to monitor the continued medical eligibility of these children. To examine these issues, GAO analyzed program data, interviewed SSA officials, conducted site visits to SSA field offices and state disability determination services (DDS) offices, and interviewed external experts. This work is ongoing and GAO has no recommendations at this time. GAO plans to issue its final report in April 2012.
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