Supplemental Security Income:Child Eligibility

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, can provide you and your disabled child the assistance you need to secure housing, food, and basic necessities. For parents with disabled children, SSI benefits can be of tremendous assistance.

Eligibility requirements for SSI benefits are stringent and can be confusing. In an effort to see every disabled child receive the benefits they deserve, Stern Law, PLLC is available to answer questions free of charge: (800)462-5772.

Application basics

Parents considering applying for SSI benefits for their child should begin by completing the Benefit Entitlement Screening Tool, found online at SSA Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool. At this time, however, you cannot apply for SSI benefits online. You must contact the Social Security Administration to schedule an appointment to complete an Application for Supplemental Security Income.

Your child will be interviewed by an SSA representative. The SSA’s website lists various ways to contact them at SSA website. You will also need to complete a Child Disability Report, which can also be found online at the SSA website.

Defining disability in children under the age of 18

To receive SSI benefits, individuals must be either: 1) Over the age of 65; 2) considered to be legally blind; or 3) a disabled child or adult. In addition, applicants must have limited income and resources. As our focus here is on disabled minor children, we will focus solely on eligibility for this group.

The Social Security Administration has separate definitions of disability for children and adults. To be considered disabled, those under the age of 18 must:

  • Have a physical or mental condition(s) that severely limits his or her activities.
  • The condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year, or result in death.

Demonstrating your minor child’s disability

In order to establish your child is in fact disabled under the Social Security Administration’s definition of such, you will need to provide a plethora of documentation. Along with your Child Disability Report, the following are some crucial items to include:

  • Your own detailed description of your child’s medical condition and its impact on his or her daily functioning
  • Medical records, dating from the date of existence of the disability
  • School records
  • Therapist reports
  • Special education teacher’s notes

You can find more detailed information on what to include in your child’s application at disability starter kits.

All of the information you gather will be sent to the Disability Determination Services in your particular state. There, doctors and trained staff will review your information and request any additional information necessary to make a determination as to whether your child is disabled. The agency may speak with your child’s doctor or educator if they feel it would be of assistance. If the agency cannot make a disability determination based on the records before it, it may ask you to take your child for a medical examination or test, at the agency’s expense.

Obtaining immediate assistance for children with some conditions

It can take between three and five months for the state Disability Determination Services office to decide if your child is disabled. However, for some medical conditions, the Social Security Administration will provide SSI benefits right away. These benefits will continue for up to six months while the state agency finalizes its decision. The following are some conditions that might qualify for immediate benefits:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Total blindness
  • Total deafness
  • Down syndrome
  • HIV infection
  • Birth weight of below 2 pounds, 10 ounces
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Severe intellectual disorder in children over the age of 7

While these conditions may entitle your child to immediate benefits, it is important to note that in the event the state agency determines your child is not disabled, you would be required to pay back the received SSI payments.

SSI disability reviews

Once your child is receiving benefits, the Social Security Administration is required to review your child’s medical condition periodically to ensure he or she is still disabled. Review generally occurs at least every three years for children with conditions that are expected to improve. The agency may still perform a disability review for children with conditions that are not expected to improve.

If you're confused about the eligibility requirements for SSI benefits or have questions about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact Stern Law, PLLC online. We can also be reached by phone at (800)462-5772.