I was shocked when I read a Jan. 7 Associated Press article concerning a Georgia family that allegedly had faked ailments and fraudulently collected more than $1 million in federal disability benefits. If the allegations are true, these individuals should be held accountable for their actions. However, it is unfair to besmirch the overwhelming majority of honest and hard-working families in this country who are recipients of disability assistance by implying, as the article does, that there is widespread abuse of critical federal disability programs such as the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for children with disabilities.

The article fails to mention that there have been five major studies of the SSI program -- one each by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, the General Accounting Office and a congressionally appointed Disability Policy Panel, and two by the Social Security Administration. All of these studies found no evidence of widespread fraud or abuse of the SSI program.

Moreover, in an April 14 letter to President Clinton, 10 senators -- both Republicans and Democrats -- expressed strong concern that the Social Security Administration had adopted regulations that were far too strict and inconsistent with congressional intent and that tens of thousands of children with disabilities would unfairly lose their SSI benefits.

Unfortunately, the senators proved to be all-too-accurate in their predictions. More than 150,000 low-income children with disabilities -- including children in special education with mental retardation, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, mental illness and other severe disabilities -- lost their SSI benefits during the summer and fall of 1997. Perhaps Republican Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island summarized the situation best when, as was reported in The Post on Dec. 18, he stated that "the SSA went too far, too fast, with their regulations and has terminated many more children than Congress ever originally intended" {"Review Ordered on Cutoff of Disability Aid to Children," front page}.

Thankfully, Social Security Commissioner Kenneth Apfel courageously has taken positive steps toward restoring benefits for some of the children with disabilities who were unfairly denied aid. However, much more needs to be done to restore public trust in the SSI program. My only hope is that the administration, Congress and the public will listen to leaders such as Sen. Chafee, Commissioner Apfel and others who have examined what the scientific evidence tells us about the SSI program, rather than trading on anecdotes, depending on dubious sources or relying on what Christopher Georges of the Wall Street Journal aptly characterizes as "a media crusade gone haywire." EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER Potomac