We have all heard lately about the “supercommittee,” its charge, and, if it isn’t successful, pulling the spending “trigger.” Defense has the most to lose from triggered cuts, as this source illustrates. Leon Panetta, head of the Department of Defense (DOD) and no bastion of conservatism, called the trigger “draconian” and “devastating” and said that it will “hollow out” the military. The worst thing, Panetta said, is that the cuts “invite aggression.”
But supercommittee cuts exempt Social Security, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans’ benefits, civilian and military retirement programs, and other programs serving low-income families. Cuts to hospitals, physicians and other Medicare providers are limited to 2 percent.
So let’s examine SSI, a part of Social Security, and exempt from supercommittee cuts. Why SSI? It has become the newest welfare scam. In 1988, there were 4.46 million SSI recipients. In 2011, there are 8 million. The SSI program for children was created mainly for those with severe physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and blindness. But benefits now go primarily to indigent children with behavioral, learning and mental conditions. “This [SSI] has become the new welfare,” said MIT economics professor David Autor.
What is SSI? The SSI program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. It also pays benefits to people 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial limits. SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues, not Social Security taxes. It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income, and it provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
That sounds pretty good. The original intent of SSI was well intended. But, as with all federal assistance programs, scam artists horned in, particularly in the “disabled” child area. SSI is known as “crazy money” since one must “act crazy” to receive it. Oftentimes several people in the same household, adults and children, collect SSI checks. Easy-to-fake learning, behavioral, and mental disorders are the most common “disabilities,” especially among children, who comprise 55 percent of all cases. More than half who go on SSI as a child, requalify as adults. SSI recipients are not required to get treatment for their or their children’s disabilities. No requalification can be good since it can be harmful for kids to take drugs for fake or exaggerated symptoms. The SSI program for children is rapidly expanding, with the biggest increase among kids with mental, behavioral and learning disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), speech delays, autism and bipolar disorder. (Personal note: With kids, how can an adult know if he/she has a “disability?” In my day [I’m 62 years old] we were told to sit down and shut up, otherwise we would get a spanking. Today, rather than administer corporal punishment, it’s easier to drug kids.) “Accurately diagnosing some types of mental impairments is a complex and often subjective process for [the Social Security Administration], which can sometimes be vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” Daniel Bertoni, from the Government Accountability Office, said.
About what amount of money are we talking? In 2010, the Social Security Administration paid almost $50 billion in SSI benefits. It paid more than $10 billion to 1.2 million disabled children.
And the future doesn’t look any better. Federal statistics show a rise over the past two decades in the number of children who qualify for SSI because of a variety of mental disabilities. The attraction of up to $700 a month in payments, and the near-automatic Medicaid coverage that comes with SSI approval, leads some families to count on a child’s remaining classified as disabled, even as his/her condition may be improving. At a hearing on Thursday, October 27, 2011, federal investigators told members of the U.S. House of Representatives that preliminary findings from their inquiry into the program show that the number of children receiving SSI benefits due to mental disabilities like autism and ADHD is on the rise. At the same time, periodic case reviews to verify continued eligibility for the program are less common.
Though somewhat dated, this source clearly illustrates the problems with SSI and the unintended consequences that can come with massive federal programs. SSI is one of the fastest growing welfare programs in the federal budget. SSI, originally designed to provide a safety net for low-income senior citizens, is now experiencing spectacular growth in recently eligible population groups, including drug addicts, the mentally ill, immigrants, and children. Government projections indicate that between 1990 and 2000 the number of immigrants on SSI will have grown fivefold and the number of drug addicts and alcoholics eightfold.
There is little or no incentive to leave the SSI program. A family of four, all getting SSI checks, could get $32,352 annually, not counting other benefits. Since there is not much most SSI recipients could do to earn a living other than work in fast food for minimum wage, why work when you can watch television all day and collect more in aid? Why bother trying to raise yourself up?
There are, of course, legitimate SSI recipients. After more than a year of violent temper tantrums, and being kicked out of preschool, four year old Hulston Poe was diagnosed with severe ADHD. His mother, Suzanne Poe, who was scraping by as a single parent of two, now receives a monthly SSI check of $674 that helps pay for Hulston’s day care, a private tutor and medicines. Plus he gained access to the doctors he needed.
So can we differentiate between legitimate recipients and scam artists? It’s a shame that the SSI program, as originally intended, must be swept up in all this “trigger” furor. But SSI is one more example of Democrat vote buying at the expense of the Defense Department.
But that’s just my opinion.