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Abstract

Prior to January 1, 1997, individuals with drug- or alcohol-related disabilities could qualify for federal public assistance through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. During the welfare reforms of the Clinton administration, this policy was changed, resulting in lost income and health care benefits for many lowincome substance abusers. This paper examines the historical underpinnings to the elimination of drug addiction and alcoholism (DA&A) as qualifjing impairments for SSI disability payments. Following this, empirical evidence is presented on the effect this policy change had on the subsequent economic security of former SSI DA&A beneficiaries. Findings indicate that study participants who lost SSI benefits suffered increased economic hardship folloving the policy change. These findings have important implications for future social welfare policymaking decisions.

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