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Are SSI requirements denying benefits to deserving families?

Published on November 5th, 2013

Started during Nixon’s presidency, the Supplemental Security Income program was designed to provide disability benefits to low-income families to help cover the cost of living and medical expenses. But when approximately six out of every ten applications for children are denied, it’s hard not to notice that deserving families might not be receiving the benefits that they need and deserve.

Families just like one low-income family out of West Philadelphia who are once again going in front of a federal court to appeal their daughter’s denied disability claim. Injured at birth, their now 2-year-old daughter is completely paralyzed in her left arm. And while her parents have tried to apply for benefits several times, her application is consistently denied by the Social Security Administration.

Like many children in her situation, the 2-year-old girl and her family must contend against strict requirements regarding the child’s disability and the income her parents provide. But this is where the denial of their benefits gets confusing. By all accounts they fit the SSI requirements: the child has a disability and her parents make roughly $17,000 a year, which is well below the poverty level. Despite these facts though the girl is still without assistance that could be used for physical therapy or even corrective surgeries.

According to data from 2012, approximately 1.3 million low-income children received SSI benefits. Unfortunately, that’s fewer than 25 percent of all children with disabilities across the nation. This begs the question: could SSI requirements be too strict? Some Social Security experts say yes and hope that the case above exemplifies this problem to politicians and people across the nation, including here in Illinois.

Source:, “Disability of 2-year-old raises questions on federal aid programs,” Alfred Lubrano, Nov. 5, 2013


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