Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2003. Legislative Changes

03/01/2003

Several legislative changes made in the 104th Congress are likely to affect SSI participation and expenditures. Public Law 104-121, the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996, prohibits SSI eligibility to individuals whose drug addiction and/or alcoholism (DAA) is a contributing factor material to the finding of disability. This provision applied to individuals who filed for benefits on or after the date of enactment (March 29, 1996) and to individuals whose claims were finally adjudicated on or after the date of enactment. It applied to current beneficiaries on January 1, 1997.

The PRWORA made several changes designed to maintain the SSI program’s goal of limiting benefits to severely disabled children. First, the act replaced the former “comparable severity” test with a new definition of disability specifically for children, based on a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” Second, it discontinued use of the Individualized Functional Assessment (IFA) which the Social Security Administration had implemented in 1991 following the Supreme Court's decision in Sullivan v Zebley, 493 U.S. 521 (1990).1 Third, it eliminated references to “maladaptive behaviors” in certain sections of the Listing of Impairments (among medical criteria for evaluation of mental and emotional disorders in the domain of personal/behavioral function). The latter two provisions were effective for all new and pending applications upon enactment (August 22, 1996). Beneficiaries who were receiving benefits due to an IFA or under the Listings because of limitations resulting from maladaptive behaviors received notice no later than January 1, 1997, that their benefits might end when their case was redetermined. Additional provisions of the PRWORA with impact on enrollment are the requirement that eligibility be redetermined when beneficiaries reach age 18, using the adult disability standard; that "continuing disability reviews" be done for children; and that children who were eligible due to low birth weight have their eligibility redetermined at age one.

Title IV of PRWORA also made significant changes in the eligibility of noncitizens for SSI benefits. Some of the restrictions were subsequently moderated, most notably by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-33), which “grandfathered” immigrants who were receiving SSI at the time of enactment of the PRWORA. Those immigrants who entered the U.S. after August 22, 1996, may be eligible to receive SSI after having been “lawfully admitted for permanent residence.”

Several provisions aimed at reducing SSI fraud and improving recovery of overpayments were enacted in 1999, as part of the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (P. L. 106-169). Other legislation enacted in 1999 provides additional work incentives for disabled beneficiaries of SSI.


1 In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the IFA (or a residual functional capacity assessment) that applied to
adults whose condition did not meet or equal a listing of medical impairments to determine eligibility should also be
applied to children whose condition did not meet or equal the medical listing of impairments.

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