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The Precarious Safety Net: Supplemental Security Income and Age 18 Redeterminations

by David Auxter, William Halloran, Hugh G. Berry, and Susan O'Mara

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The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 substantially changed the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, and the implementation of these changes has important implications for children and youth with disabilities. SSI is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration that provides cash assistance and increased access to Medicaid health insurance and vocational rehabilitation for low-income persons with disabilities. PRWORA required redeterminations for all youth receiving SSI benefits within 1 year after reaching age 18 using stricter adult disability criteria. As a result, the majority of age 18 SSI participants were recommended for cessation nationally. These changes have critical implications for transition planning, employment, and quality of life for young SSI participants and those removed from the program. This article examines the background of the SSI program, age 18 redetermination procedures, current implementation data, and issues focusing on the involvement of teachers and rehabilitation professionals involved in the transition planning process. Recommendations for practice and future research are also discussed.