Children with Disabilities and Their Families to Benefit from New Hampshire Supreme Court Decision

Low-income New Hampshire families with a child with a disability won a major victory on August 2, 2016, when the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down a rule requiring that the child’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits – intended for the child’s needs – be treated as income for other family members in determining their eligibility for cash assistance. Typically, this harsh policy has made the whole family ineligible for cash assistance or reduced the family grant dramatically, leaving the family with only the child’s SSI income.

Federal SSI law requires the parents to use the child’s SSI in the best interests of the child and only for the child’s benefit. The Court unanimously ruled that the challenged policy violates the federal SSI program’s goal of providing a minimal level of support to children with serious disabilities and its requirement that the parent spend the child’s SSI grant on the child’s needs and in the child’s best interest.

Significantly, the New Hampshire Supreme Court requested the views of the views of the federal government, which filed a brief supporting the families. The Court noted that New Hampshire and Wisconsin are the only two states with this harmful policy. We hope that the Court’s unanimous decision and the strong federal government brief will deter other states from adopting such a policy.

New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) represented the families. NCLEJ is pleased to have provided ongoing support to NHLA throughout this litigation. We congratulate NHLA’s Kay Drought and Ruth Heintz for their impressive advocacy and this great victory for New Hampshire families.

Read the decision here.