How Do SSI Benefits Work for Children?

We’ve talked a lot about how Social Security provides benefits for disabled adults, but what about disabled children? Each year, thousands of children are either born with a disability or develop a disability in their childhood. Not only can a disability drastically impact the life of the child, but it can also cause financial stress on a family as they attempt to provide the best care for their child. 

The Social Security Administration understands the unique financial struggles that can come with caring for a child with a disability, which is why the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program extends to these children. 

Interested in learning more? Let’s dive into the details of the SSI program for disabled children.

How does SSI work for children? 

Let’s clear up some confusion first: disabled children under 18 are not eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, in the same way that adults are. Disabled children are given benefits through SSI, not SSDI. When we discuss SSI throughout this article, understand that these are the requirements specifically for disabled children. SSI and SSDI for adults come with different requirements than the ones listed here. 

What are the qualifications for SSI? 

In order to receive SSI, a child must be under 18 years old and have a qualifying disability. In the same way that SSDI is distributed, a child must have a disability that is listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of conditions. Part B of the Blue Book is tailored specifically to children and includes conditions like failure to thrive, epilepsy, growth failure due to a digestive disorder, chronic heart failure and more. Also, as with SSDI, their condition must be expected to last at least a year or result in death. 

With certain conditions, children may be eligible for expedited benefits. For children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Cri du Chat syndrome or certain other conditions, the SSA will start making payments immediately while your disability application processes. This process is called compassionate allowance and ensures that children and adults who are in immediate need receive benefits as quickly as possible. 

What are the financial requirements?

If an adult is applying for SSI, it is generally based on how much income they receive. Though SSI for disabled children is not entirely based on income, it is a component of receiving benefits. In 2020, a child cannot earn more than $1,260 per month or $2,110 per month if they are blind. If income is earned over this amount, they would not be eligible for SSI benefits. 

It’s important to note that, though children likely don’t receive income, the parent’s income is included in this number. The SSA uses a process called deeming to determine how much of a parent’s income factors into how much a child “earns” each month. As long as a child lives at home with a parent (or stepparent) their income counts. When determining how much of your income and resources count, items like your primary home and vehicle are not included, nor is a VA pension or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. If the SSA determines your income would be over their limit, you will not be able to receive SSI for your child. 

How does my child apply for SSI?

To apply for SSI, the SSA will obtain all of your child’s medical records and school records. This includes any and all information about their medical condition and how it impacts their daily life. In order to receive benefits, you must prove that your child would be unable to work, attend school on a regular basis or perform activities of daily life without assistance.

To meet SSA’s disability criteria to receive SSI benefits, SSA must find that your child has severe impairments that impact six (6) areas of your child’s functioning. These functional areas are called domains. They include: 

  • the child’s ability to learn and use information learned
  • the child’s ability to concentrate and complete tasks
  • the child’s ability to interact with other children and adults
  • the child’s ability to care for themselves such as dressing, eating, bathing, being aware of dangers, etc.
  • the child’s motor skills such as use of hands and arms for age appropriate things
  • the overall health and physical well being of the child considering the child’s medical conditions and the medical treatment needed for the child. 

The SSA will ask to talk to people in your child’s life like doctors, therapists and teachers to get a better idea of your child’s disability. The more information you provide, the better. Once you’ve accumulated all of this information, you submit it to the SSA. From there, Disability Determination Services will review the information and make a decision. Note that this can take around 3-5 months, so you should not expect an immediate decision or payment of benefits. As mentioned before, there are some conditions that allow for expedited benefits, but this is not the case for the majority of applications. Once your application is approved or denied, you can begin receiving benefits or you can appeal your decision. 

Has your child’s SSI application been denied?

Contact Reynolds & Gold. Our team is here to assist you as you go through the process of filing. 

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