WASHINGTON (AP) _ Former Kansas Rep. Jim Slattery will chair a Childhood Disability Commission to examine the rapid growth of benefits for children with disabilities.

Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, announcing the appointment Monday, said, ``Jim Slattery brings the compassion, the realism and the experience this issue demands.''

Supplemental Security Income payments to disabled children have nearly quadrupled in the past six years, from $1.3 billion in benefits for 290,000 children in 1989 to approximately $5 billion for 890,000 children today. The average payment exceeds $5,600 a year.

The payments to children spurted after a 1990 Supreme Court ruling made it easier for disabled children to qualify.

Slattery, a Democrat, lost a race for governor of Kansas last year.

Congress, as part of a recent Social Security law, created the commission to examine SSI policies and the needs of disabled children.

Among the issues the commission will review are:

_SSI's eligibility criteria and the process used to award benefits.

_Whether federal health assistance programs should be changed to help disabled children.

_The feasibility of providing vouchers instead of cash.

_Whether private organizations can be more closely involved in providing services.

_Whether benefits can be used more effectively to help children achieve future independence and jobs.

_The impact of SSI on children and their families.

Shalala said, ``It is critical that the commission review the interactions of ... (SSI) with all the other medical, special education, and case management programs the government operates. We want to ensure that services are not duplicated.''

SSI is run by the Social Security Administration for low-income people who are elderly, blind or disabled. It pays $28 billion a year in benefits to more than 6 million people. The money comes from general tax revenues, not the Social Security payroll tax.