Watchwoman on the Wall

Globe Editorial

Mislabeling kids as ADHD? Investigate federal rules

May 29, 2011
GOOD INTENTIONS have gone awry in the federal program that gives cash benefits to families of disabled children, and a comprehensive assessment of the program’s weaknesses is the first step toward fixing it. Given the strong possibility that children are being misclassified as disabled to make their families eligible for checks of up to $700 a month, Congress should happily pay the $10 million or so needed to fund a study of the program by the well-regarded Institute of Medicine. And then it should quickly implement any changes based on the institute’s findings before more children are misclassified.

As the Globe’s Patricia Wen documented in a series in December, the $10 billion-a-year Supplemental Security Income program, which was originally meant for families of children with such disabilities as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, has long since expanded to cover such mental conditions as attention-deficit disorder. In 1990, 8 percent of the poor children on SSI had qualified because of mental, learning, or behavioral disorders; in 2009, more than half did.
To some degree, the change reflects an acknowledgment that certain mental disabilities can strain a family just as physical ones do. But it also suggests that, in an era of stagnant wages and dead-end jobs, many poor families are looking to SSI less to defray expenses associated with a child’s disability than to help make ends meet more generally. Read the rest here:…


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