Supplemental Security Income for Children with Disabilities

Source: Shawn Fremstad and Rebecca Vallas, National Academy of Social Insurance, Social Security Brief, No. 40, November 2012

Supplemental Security Income, signed into law by President Nixon in October 1972, assists Americans with limited resources who are elderly or have significant disabilities, including about 1.3 million children with severe mental and physical disabilities. SSI provides a small monthly income supplement that helps families offset some of the additional costs of raising a child with disabilities, replaces some of the parental income lost due to staying home to care for the child, and provides basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, enabling families to raise their children with disabilities at home rather than in an institution.

Estimates vary depending on how disability is defined and measured, but national statistics find that 8 to 9 percent of children have a relatively serious disability. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) is the most widely accepted framework for understanding disability today. It views disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations, or participation restrictions.

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