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Poor Philadelphia family denied SSI benefits for disabled child

Families who live below the poverty line typically have enough challenges when everyone is healthy. However, if one of the children in the family is disabled, it can exacerbate an already devastating situation. The Supplemental Security Income program for children with disabilities is designed to help these families, who often have medical expenses far beyond what Medicaid covers. One Philadelphia couple is about to go to federal court again in an attempt to get the SSI benefits they need to take care of their disabled 2-year-old daughter.

The girl sustained significant nerve damage from a birth injury. As a result, she has limited mobility and no strength in her left arm. She has balance issues and needs help climbing stairs and getting dressed. Despite the mother working two jobs, the family has an income of only $17,000 per year. The couple relies on Medicaid to pay many of the girl's medical expenses.

The family has already been denied SSI benefits three times, though the reasons why are unclear. However, they are in the majority. Approximately 25 percent of low-income families with disabled children are granted SSI benefits. A judge acknowledged the child's disability but also ruled that it wasn't serious enough for her to receive benefits.

In many situations, SSI can make a world of difference to a low-income family, with monthly benefits as high as $710. The attorney for this Philadelphia family stated that he hopes this case will reveal weaknesses in the program, indicating that its definition of disability may be too narrow. If this couple is ultimately successful in getting benefits, it may pave the way for more families with similar needs.

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

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