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The Other Welfare

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The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for children was created mainly for those with severe physical disabilities. But the $10 billion in federal benefit checks now goes primarily to indigent children with behavioral, learning and mental conditions. Qualifying is not always easy -- many applicants believe it is essential that a child needs to be on psychotropic drugs to qualify. But once enrolled, there is little incentive to get off. And officials rarely check to see if the children are getting better.

Day 1
With SSI program, a legacy of unintended side effects

Cash and hard choices in
disability program for children

A Boston Globe investigation finds that a $10 billion, federal disability program for indigent children has gone seriously astray. It is now a fast-growing alternative welfare system with troubling incentives - such as financial reasons to take psychotropic drugs. The top category for approvals is ADHD. (By Patricia Wen, Boston Globe)
Day 2
Follow-up process lacking in SSI disability program

Benefit increasingly goes
to the very young

Preschoolers are the fastest-growing age group qualifying for a federal disability program, largely because of a 12-fold spike in cases of speech delay. The government is aggressively trying to help these young children, but spends little time to see if they're getting any better.
(By Patricia Wen, Boston Globe)
Day 3
MayMay Martin, 16, of Brighton, says she is less likely to work, out of fear that doing so would jeopardize her SSI benefits

For teenagers, a
difficult balancing act

Many teenagers in this federal disability program dream of fulfilling careers and adult lives free of government dependency. But for now, they decline part-time jobs, largely because they fear working will jeopardize their disability checks. Their families are poor and need the money. (By Patricia Wen, Boston Globe)
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Discussion forum
Leave a comment on our moderated discussion board.
Globe Staff Writer Patricia Wen answered your questions.
A panel of policy experts answered your questions: MIT economics professor David Autor, Massachusetts General Hospital pediatrician Dr. James Perrin, Williams College economist Lucie Schmidt and Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children president Mary Lou Sudders. Read their responses.
Examine Supplemental Security Income benefits for children by state.