Research on Employment Supports for People with Disabilities: Summary of the Focus Group Findings. Supplemental Security Income

In general, most participants did not report use of SSI during childhood. One participant said, "When I was younger, I didn't qualify [for Social Security] because my father made too much." Other participants cited lack of awareness as the reason why their parents did not seek public services or supports for which they or their children might qualify.

  • "My parents did not know that I could receive services."

  • "Those kinds of programs, we didn't even know they existed."

  • "Nobody came to my house or wrote a letter or anything telling my parents, ‘We'd like to offer you these services free of charge.' I want to stress we were a very poor family."

One person reported that he received SSI as a child because his mother had passed away:9"It wasn't a lot of money, [but] it helped out my dad." A second person with mental illness, who was diagnosed while in college also, was able to obtain SSI with the assistance of her sister:

  • "My sister is an MD, and she made it really easy for me to get SSI. The interview was to see if I had the illness. She just did all the talking for me, using all the medical terminology, and I immediately got SSI. She referred me to a very good doctor. She said that families with my illness [will deny] that it's a real illness or problem.…My parents were in denial all the time about my having the illness. Because of my sister, it finally got through."

Among those who did report receiving SSI during childhood, most reported positive experiences with the benefit:

  • According to one participant, it was "definitely of value to have had SSI when you were in school and too young to work and you needed medications and other assistance."

  • A participant with a learning disability said that she had been on SSI all of her life and that it had been a very important source of financial help since she was a baby.

  • A participant with epilepsy said that he received SSI when he was young and that benefit was important for him both financially and emotionally. He said it made him feel more like the other kids to be able to "buy my own stuff."

A number of participants began receiving SSI in high school or later, and one reported that SSI receipt resulted in increased independence on her part:

  • "I did get SSI and that was when I considered myself emancipated from my Dad so I could…be on my own."