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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effects of the judicially mandated individualized functional assessment (IFA) process on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, focusing on: (1) allegations that parents may be coaching their children to fake mental impairments to qualify under the lower eligibility standards created by IFA; and (2) how IFA affects the children's eligibility for benefits.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Given widespread concern about growth in the SSI program for children and in light of GAO findings about the subjective nature of the IFA process, Congress should consider taking action to improve eligibility determinations for children with disabilities. One option Congress could consider is to eliminate IFA, which would require amending the statute. Congress could then direct SSA to revise its medical listings, including the functional criteria, so that all children receive functional assessments based on these revised criteria.
Closed - Implemented
Congress enacted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which the President signed on August 22, 1996. The act includes a provision eliminating IFAs as criteria for determining children's eligibility for benefits.

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