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HALF OF PENNSYLVANIA CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES WHO SHOULD GET SSI BENEFITS GET NOTHING; CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO REACH FAMILIES

 HALF OF PENNSYLVANIA CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES WHO SHOULD GET
 SSI BENEFITS GET NOTHING; CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO REACH FAMILIES
 Feb. 20 was 2nd Anniversary of Zebley Supreme Court Ruling
 PHILADELPHIA, March 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Half of all Pennsylvania children with disabilities who should get federal SSI cash benefits and health care still get nothing, Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia said today, marking the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that ordered the Social Security Administration to rewrite illegal SSI eligibility rules.
 CLS announced a new project to reach out to kids with disabilities who were turned down in the past or never applied for SSI benefits.
 CLS, the federal- and state-funded legal aid office in Philadelphia, announced the beginning of a statewide effort -- the Pennsylvania Children's SSI Campaign -- to find families with children who qualify and urge them to apply for money and medical care available through SSI, the Supplemental Security Income program.
 The SSI program in Pennsylvania gives up to $453 per month to lower- income families of children who have a serious mental or physical disability or chronic illness. To qualify, income for a family of four generally cannot be more than $25,000. (See eligibility chart below.)
 In Pennsylvania, any child who is eligible for SSI also gets Medical Assistance, which provides free health care.
 "Two full years after our winning Supreme Court decision in Sullivan v. Zebley, at a time when families need this money desperately, it is disturbing that half of children with disabilities in Pennsylvania, and indeed nationally, who should qualify for benefits are not getting them," said Jonathan Stein, CLS general counsel.
 In Pennsylvania, at least 20,000 lower-income children are eligible for but not receiving SSI benefits, Stein said. About 21,400 Pennsylvania children currently receive SSI.
 Nationally, more than 1 million children with disabilities are now eligible for SSI benefits, according to state-by-state estimates prepared by advocates. The Social Security Administration said only 439,000 children received SSI payments in December 1991. Overall, 58 percent of potentially eligible disabled children in the nation got nothing.
 "Since 1974, over 600,000 disabled children have applied for SSI and been wrongly rejected; many thousands more never heard of these benefits, or they gave up because of the enormous barriers put in place by SSA," said Richard Weishaupt, CLS project head for Health and Human Services, who argued the Zebley case before the high court.
 "These families urgently need to know they may now qualify because the SSI eligibility rules have been rewritten and liberalized; there is a fresh opportunity to get the benefits their disabled child deserves, even if they were turned down before."
 New eligibility rules were mandated by the Supreme Court on Feb. 20, 1990, in Sullivan v. Zebley, the largest class action lawsuit ever successfully brought against Social Security. The Supreme Court ordered the agency to rewrite illegally restrictive eligibility rules which had excluded any assessment of children's individual ability to function.
 The court also ordered the agency to contact 452,000 children nationally, and 21,675 in Pennsylvania, denied between 1980 and 1990 -- the Zebley class members -- and let them know they can ask to be re-evaluated, even if they are now adults. If they are approved under the new rules, they are entitled to benefits retroactive to the date they first applied, which can total as much as $50,000.
 But in the two years since the court mandate, the Social Security Administration has located only 9,703 of 21,675 previously rejected Pennsylvania children, and only 204,000 of the 452,000 previously rejected children nationally. Many children have moved and their whereabouts are unknown to SSA.
 CLS lawyers urge parents of past denied disabled children, and others who know of such children, to go to their local Social Security office as soon as possible and ask for a "Zebley class review."
 The Pennsylvania Children's SSI Campaign will complement a national campaign of advocacy groups directed by the Mental Health Law Project of Washington, D.C. and will complement Social Security's efforts with a statewide outreach and enrollment effort, said Stein.
 In addition to direct outreach and efforts to publicize the new opportunities available to families through SSI, the campaign will educate medical, social work and education professionals who work with eligible children to increase enrollment in the SSI program. The Pennsylvania campaign will be funded by the Pew Memorial Trusts.
 "We'll be working closely with social workers, nurses, unions, civil rights groups and professionals in health care, education, and children's organizations across the state to reach as many eligible families as possible," said Weishaupt.
 A special toll-free number is available to Pennsylvania residents seeking advice and assistance: 1-800-523-0000. Philadelphia residents should call 215-893-5300.
 The Pennsylvania Children's SSI campaign joins a national children's SSI campaign comprised of the Washington, D.C.-based Mental Health Law Project, the National Center for Youth Law/Youth Law Center in San Francisco, Rural Legal Services of Tennessee, as well as Community Legal Services.
 ----
 The following chart gives the highest amount of gross monthly income for 1991 (before taxes are withheld) which the parent(s) can earn or receive and still have a child qualify for SSI in this state.
 Amounts given are for states, like Pennsylvania, which supplement the federal payment with additional money.
 DEEMING ELIGIBILITY CHART


Gross monthly income below the dollar amounts shown means disabled child
 may be eligible for SSI in the state of Pennsylvania.
 All income is earned
 Number of ineligible One parent Two parents
 children in household in household in household
 0 $1,358.40 $1,764.40
 1 $1,561.40 $1,967.40
 2 $1,764.40 $2,170.40
 3 $1,967.40 $2,373.40
 All income is unearned
 Number of ineligible One parent Two parents
 children in household in household in household
 0 $886.40 $1,089.40
 1 $1,089.40 $1,292.40
 2 $1,292.40 $1,495.40
 3 $1,495.40 $1,698.40
 Amounts given are general guidelines only. Contact your local Social Security office for a formal determination of eligibility for individual cases.
 /delval/
 -0- 3/9/92
 /CONTACT: Jonathan Stein, 215-893-5342, or Richard Weishaupt, 215-893-5373, both of CLS/ CO: Community Legal Services; Social Security Administration ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


MK-CC -- PH018 -- 6302 03/09/92 10:23 EST
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