Depending on the circumstances, your disabled child may qualify for disability benefits through Social Security Administration (SSA). In this article, we will look at the Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs and discuss the criteria to qualify for benefits under each.
Adults who have a disability that began before they turned 22-years-old may qualify for SSDI benefits. This benefit is called a “child” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s earnings record, and one of the parents must be receiving disability or retirement benefits from Social Security or have died but worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits. These disabled adult “child” benefits will continue as long as the qualified individual remains disabled.
If your child is under age 18 and has a medical condition (or combination of conditions) that meets SSA’s definition of disability for children, and if his or her income and resources fall within eligibility limits, your child may qualify for SSI benefits. The amount that your child may be eligible to receive under SSI varies based on the state you live in because each state decides whether to add additional funds to the federal minimum. Your local SSA office will be able to tell you how benefit payments work in your state.
To qualify for child disability benefits under SSI, your child must meet all of the following criteria to be considered disabled: 1) your blind child cannot work or earn more than $2,190 per month in 2021, or your non-blind child cannot work or earn more than $1,310 per month in 2021; 2) your child’s condition must have been disabling for at least 12 consecutive months or be expected to result in his or her death; and 3) your child must have a medical condition (or combination of conditions) that result in “marked and severe functional limitations,” which means that they must seriously limit your child’s activities.
When you apply for SSI benefits for your disabled child, SSA will look at your child’s income and resources as well as the income and resources of family members living in your child’s household. If your child or household members exceed the income and resources threshold to qualify for SSI benefits, your application will be denied.
As part of the application process, SSA will ask you for detailed information regarding your child’s disability and how this condition (or conditions) affects your child’s ability to perform daily activities. The agency will also ask you to give permission to therapists, doctors, teachers, among other professionals, to release information regarding your child’s disability.
After your application has been submitted, the information that you provided will be sent to your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. There, DDS doctors and staff will try to make a determination on your child’s eligibility for disability benefits and will likely ask for medical and school records. If they still cannot determine whether your child qualifies, you may be asked to take him or her for a medical exam or test, at SSA’s expense.
Although it can take 3-5 months for DDS to make a determination, there are some conditions for which SSI will start providing benefits immediately for up to 6 months. These conditions include, but are not limited to: cerebral palsy; muscular dystrophy; severe intellectual disability; Down syndrome; and total blindness and/or total deafness.
SSA will review your child’s medical condition periodically to verify that the disability still meets SSA’s criteria. When they conduct their review, you must provide evidence that your child is receiving treatment considered medically necessary for his or her condition and that the disability still affects his or her daily activities.