260,000 children may lose their SSI disability benefits Parents notified as cases face review under new law


WASHINGTON -- The government sent letters to the parents of 260,000 children yesterday notifying them that the children might lose disability benefits because of the new welfare law.

The cash benefits, averaging $424 a month, are paid under the Supplemental Security Income program. The children, most of them from low-income families, were previously found to have a wide range of severe physical or mental disabilities like cerebral palsy, autism, tuberculosis, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, epilepsy and mental retardation.

Some children, especially those with mental, emotional and behavioral problems, will lose the cash benefits they now receive. Some will also lose Medicaid coverage.

For years, critics of the fast-growing program have contended that it was too generous and that some children received benefits even though their medical problems were not very severe. The program was a prime target of Republicans who wrote the welfare bill, which President Clinton signed on Aug. 22.

Philip Gambino, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said the letters were being sent to the parents of 260,000 of the 1 million children who receive disability benefits. The government will review the cases to see if the youngsters meet the definition of disability established by the new law and regulations.

Gambino estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 children -- 10 percent to 20 percent of all children on the rolls -- would eventually lose benefits.

The new law tightens eligibility standards, but Congress gave the president great latitude to interpret the law. Administration officials are writing regulations that will, by redefining disability, do much to determine the impact of the law.

The new regulations are supposed to be issued in the next few weeks.

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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