AHRQ Research Informs Social Security Administration's Policies on Low Birth Weight
The Social Security Administration (SSA) used AHRQ's Evidence Report Series, Criteria for Determining Disability in Infants and Children (Nos. 70, 72, and 73), to inform their policies on the evaluation of low birth weight in premature infants and linear and weight-related growth impairments in children. These policies have a direct impact on the process for determining both initial and continuing eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and, therefore, eligibility for Medicaid in many states.
The AHRQ evidence reports were helpful in advancing the scientific base about the conditions that predict developmental impairment in premature infants. The report, Criteria for Determining Disability in Infants and Children: Low Birth Weight, provided evidence-based criteria on such factors as intestinal complications and chronic lung disease that may lead to long-term disability in low birth weight infants.
The SSA used these criteria in considering revisions to the policy for determining the most appropriate time at which to evaluate a low birth weight infant's continuing eligibility for SSI benefits. The SSA now advises adjudicators to consider the medical circumstances in which it would be appropriate to extend the reevaluation of some low birth weight infants' disability status from one year of age to age two or three, when longer-term outcomes are more likely to be apparent. This new policy revision will help ensure that disability benefits are not inappropriately disrupted at one year of age for those low birth weight infants who are most likely to experience longer-term complications.
All three evidence reports have served as important background information as SSA rewrites the medical listings it uses to determine if an infant or child with low birth weight, failure to thrive, or short stature is disabled. SSA experts have found AHRQ's evidence reports to be valuable resources as SSA refines disability policy to ensure that disabled infants and children are appropriately identified and supported.