New Rules to Tighten Welfare Eligibility for Low-Income Handicapped Children

Article excerpt

One of welfare reform's most controversial changes - stricter eligibility rules in a federal welfare program for poor disabled children - is nearing publication.

The new rules for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for disabled children, which are being written by the Social Security Administration, were technically due yesterday.

The rules should be published in the Federal Register within two weeks, an SSA spokesman said.

The new rules will eliminate a controversial eligibility process known as the "individualized functional assessment," or IFA, which Congress considered too broad and prone to abuse.

The new rules will require that all SSI children be re-evaluated under new, stricter standards.

As a result, about 22 percent of the nearly 1 million children on SSI will be dropped from the rolls, says the Congressional Budget Office.

Many of these children are likely to be dropped because they have combinations of disabilities that are not in themselves severe, said Marty Ford, spokeswoman for the Arc, a national group representing mentally retarded people and their families.

For example, she said, a child with a relatively low IQ of 72, a mild case of cerebral palsy and some hearing impairment might not be able to qualify under the stricter rules.

The Arc and many groups urged Congress not to make SSI rules too harsh, but the program - described last year as "the black hole of the welfare state" by the Cato Institute - has been considered ripe for reform for several years. …