The Brookings Institution will host an event May 8 to debate how we help some of our most vulnerable citizens — disabled children and their families. An important part of the safety net for such families is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides monthly cash benefits to people who are disabled, blind, or elderly and have little income and few assets. In March 2012, over 8 million people collected SSI benefits — including 1.3 million children under 18.
Here are some important things that policymakers should know about SSI for disabled children as they consider the program’s future:
For families of disabled children, SSI benefits often are crucial to obtaining needed therapies and supports, especially when a parent faces the wrenching tradeoff between employment and caring for a severely impaired child. This congressional testimony from a mother of a disabled child is one example.
The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) examined the SSI program for disabled children as Congress debated the program in the mid-1990s and concluded that — while some reforms were merited — it serves a compelling need. As they review this program, lawmakers should remember its vital importance to some of America’s most vulnerable children and families.