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Sharp rise in SSI benefits for children labeled mentally ill

There is an excellent article in today’s Boston Globe, With SSI Program, A Legacy of Unintended Side Effects, about poor families with affected children receiving SSI disability benefits for mental health issues.These benefits may also spell a rise in iatrogenic disease and lifelong disability. Usually the parents will be found ineligible for receiving benefits unless their child is taking a psychiatric drug. These disability payments may serve as a disincentive for the parents, and then for the labeled child to enter the work force.

A graph on the side of the page gives these stats.

In 1990, 8.3% of the children on supplementary benefits were said to have mental health issues. Today that figure is up to 53.3%, or over half.

Of the 1.2 million low-income children nationwide who received SSI checks last year, 53 percent, or 640,000, qualified because of mental, learning, or behavioral issues, up from 8 percent in 1990. By significant margins, the top two disorders are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, and delayed speech in young children, followed by autism spectrum disorders, bipolar illness, depression, and learning problems, according to the Social Security Administration, which runs this program and the $55 billion SSI system for adults.

Disturbing as well are the top “disorders” mentioned, ADHD and delayed speech. In New England, the article points out, the percentage of families receiving disability for children labeled mentally ill is even higher than elsewhere at 63%. These disability programs had been designed to help care for children with severe disabilities such as Brown’s syndrome or Celebral Palsy. When families are receiving payments for diseases of such a dubious nature, and these payments could be extended throughout the adulthood of the child being served, one has to wonder about the heavy financial burden this country may be facing in the future.