Florida in top ten: families receiving SSI for children with mental health disabilities

The article in the Boston Globe I posted about a few days ago was the first in a series of 3 investigative journalism articles on poor families receiving SSI for children with disabilities of a troubling nature. These three investigative articles on The Other Welfare are, in order of appearance:

Cash and hard choices in disability program for children
Benefit increasingly goes to the very young
For teenagers, a difficult balancing act

This series had other relevant interesting revelations to make. One such revelation was the fact that the fastest growing age group in this $10,000,000,000 program consists of children under the age of 5. 4 of every 10 new cases on the SSI rolls consist of children in this age range that poor families are using to receive benefits.

The top two disorders of child disorders for which families are applying, as I mentioned previously, are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and delayed speech disorder. ADHD is a convenient excuse to label children that I’ve dealt with on a number of occasions. Delayed speech, which has undergone a 12-fold increase since 1997 when it became a means to supplement income, although it is sometimes persisting, often vanishes over time.

More distressing was the information regarding those states in which the percentage of children labeled with these more questionable disabilities on SSI was higher than the national average of 53.3 %. In New England, the average is 63 %, higher than in the rest of the nation. The story was published, of course, in Massachusetts, which at 62.4 % is # 7 on a top ten list. I happen to live in Florida, and although not a New England state, Florida is # 8 at 60.7 %. For the sake of those people who might be wondering if their state is on this top ten list, I’m giving the whole list below.

1. Pennsylvania: 67.7 %
2. Vermont: 66.1 %
3. Maine: 65 %
4. District of Columbia: 64.5 %
5. Rhode Island: 63.9 %
6. New Hampshire: 63.1 %
7. Massachusetts: 62.4 %
8. Florida: 60.7 %
9. Connecticut: 60.4 %
10. Idaho: 59.8 %

The problem with these statistics is that some of the children receiving benefits will grow into adults receiving benefits. When unemployment is presently at almost 10%, a rate which would have been unheard of in the past at any time outside of the great depression, this matter is very disturbing indeed. Calling financial dependence a disability I expect is going to become an increasing burden on the economy of this country. Sooner or later, the absurdity of doing business as usual must strike home.

2 Responses

  1. The poor families receiving SSI for children with “disabilities” is a drop in the bucket. To say that these children will become dependent on the meager sums they receive is not rational. You cannot support yourself on SSI alone. Your logic is flawed. I agree that ADD is over-diagnosed. But the real problem is the vast over-spending by the Pentagon, and the Multi-millionaires sucking the lifeblood out of the economy by sitting on their enormous tax windfalls. You are over-simplifying the problem. The economy did not tank due to entitlement programs for the disabled. It tanked due to Wall Street excesses, and government spending on two unnecessary wars..not to mention the Bush tax cuts…I could go on…but I feel as if I’m wasting my breath.

    • Did you read this The Other Welfare series in The Boston Post!? It may not be “rational”, as you put it, but it happens. Poor families, struggling to survive, make part of their survival gig a child’s transitory, if not dubious, “mental” “disability” issues. The child reaches 18, young adulthood if you will, and is confronted with the choice of continuing on a governmental check, or seeking a job that may not pay, and could threaten those benefits. Suddenly those issues are not so transitory. These %s’ of families on SSI because of children with “mental” “disability” labels are not figments of my imagination. The problem is poverty, and the economic dependence that goes along with it. I don’t have the answer right now. Martin Luther King had his poor peoples’ movement. I think we could use something of the sort now. Poverty goes hand in hand with living on government checks. I’d like to see people experience less poverty, and more economic independence myself. I’ve taken part in political campaigns for a liveable wage. You give people a liveable wage, and they won’t need to take money from the government, on top of working two or three jobs to get by in some instances. We also have parents who don’t work because it doesn’t pay. It should pay. I don’t think the way to go is to run a charity for (bail out banks and auto companies and offer tax cuts to) the rich. I don’t think a lot of people aren’t working because they don’t want to work. I do think there are some people who aren’t working who are very capable of working. I don’t think fostering dependence on the state for people who are over the age of 21 is a great idea.

      12/19/10 UPDATE.

      A letter to the editor targets drug companies as a big recipient of these disability payments. Bearing the heading, Disability system’s other recipient: drug firms , it begins as follows:

      WHILE YOUR three-part series exposed a broken disability system and the difficult choices being made by today’s underclass, it did not mention the biggest welfare recipient of them all — the pharmaceutical corporations. They make hundreds of billions of dollars with government-subsidized Medicaid insurance buying their overprescribed psychiatric medications — drugs that are systematically promoted through sophisticated, but scientifically disputable, public relations campaigns.

      On this part of the letter I am in complete agreement. Although I’m not sure I fully agree with some of the conclusions that this Richard D. Lewis draws in the rest of the letter, I do feel that the impetus of the series was to blame the poor rather than to blame poverty, and that I don’t think is a good idea. One of the reasons we’ve got this “poorly managed disability system” is because we’ve got poverty. Take care of the poverty, and you take care of people’s need for supplementary disability payments in the first place. Nobody should be castigated for looking out for his or her own survival interests and welfare. I think we’ve got problems where looking out for one’s own interests entails opting out of society at large, and not contributing substantially to the GNP (i.e. being a burden on the national economy). I work under the premise that most people want to be contributing members of society in a financial sense. The disability system, as it is, is very good at ousting people from participation in the economy, it’s just not very good at bringing them back in.

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