Disability Rolls Balloon

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When a veteran academic finds something notable in a Republican president’s administration, it’s generally the expansion of a federal government program.

At the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), on Tuesday, Michael Wiseman, an economist at George Washington University (GWU), called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the disabled, the “big achievement of the Nixon years.” The program dates from 1974.

Currently, millions of adults and children are on the program, and millions more are likely to be. “Since 1996, the real value of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, as the Clinton Administration and the Republican Congress renamed welfare) has been declining,” Wiseman noted, “while SSI benefits increased.”

“Incentives exist for states to move children to SSI.”

Further, according to Wiseman, of the 1.2 million children on SSI, 65 percent qualify because of  mental issues. In fact, 10 percent of the kids on SSI are autistic, Jeffrey Hemmeter of the Social Security Administration, which administers the program, says.

“They can keep getting payments after age 18 if they are in a program that will lead to work,” Hemmeter, who spoke at the same AEI conference, said.

“Ten years out, 14 percent of those who received benefits as children successfully reapplied,” Hemmeter added.  For those off the program, the future is a coin flip.

“Those on SSI at ages 18-24 are more likely to be employed but they are also more likely to be arrested or incarcerated,” Hemmeter said.

As well, Pamela Loprest of the Urban Institute observed that the undocumented parents of eligible children can apply on behalf of their offspring.

Update: You can find a summary and video recording of the event HERE.