If you have a child with a severe physical or cognitive disability, you may be wondering if you can apply for Social Security benefits on his or her behalf. While child disability benefits are not the same as adult benefits—after all, children are not expected to work and earn a living and therefore cannot be considered unable to work due to a disability—there are benefits available in certain situations. We describe the options here.
Benefits for Low-Income Children
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is available to most low-income residents of the U.S. who are over age 65, blind, or disabled, including children. If your family’s income falls within the eligibility limits and your child is disabled, you may qualify to receive disability benefits on his or her behalf. In order to qualify as disabled, the child must meet the following criteria:
- The child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, which result in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means that the condition(s) must very seriously limit your child’s activities.
- The child’s condition(s) must have been disabling, or be expected to be disabling, for at least 12 months; or the condition(s) must be expected to result in death.
In order to prove your child’s eligibility, you will be asked to provide details about his condition, including medical reports that substantiate the claim. You will be expected to grant permission to the child’s doctors, teachers, therapists, and caregivers to answer questions from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The more information you provide to the SSA that proves your child’s disability, the more likely it is that you will be approved quickly. It generally takes from three to five months for SSI approval, but if your child has one of the following conditions, you may qualify for immediate benefits:
- HIV infection in combination with other impairments
- Total blindness
- Total deafness
- Cerebral palsy
- Down syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Severe intellectual disability (child age 4 or older)
- Birth weight below 2 pounds, 10 ounces
Your child will be re-assessed every three years (or at one year for low birth weight qualifiers) to determine his or her ongoing disability. Once the child reaches 18 years of age, he or she must requalify according to the rules for adults and based on his or her own income, not that of family members.
SSDI Benefits for Children
While SSI benefits are based on household income, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are based on the amount the applicant has paid into the Social Security system through years of work, as well as his or her qualifying disability. Therefore, children do not usually qualify for SSDI benefits. However, there is an exception of sorts. The SSDI program does pay benefits to adults who have a disability that began in childhood (before turning 22 years old) if a PARENT is receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits or the parent died and worked enough to qualify for Social Security. These are considered to be dependent benefits. Determination of the “child’s” disability will be based on the criteria for determining adult disability and will be re-evaluated periodically.
Keller & Keller Support Families
The state of New Mexico provides support for families struggling to care for disabled children. The SSA offers assistance to low-income families who are applying for SSI benefits on behalf of a disabled child.
If your adult child became disabled before the age of 22 and you believe he should qualify for SSDI benefits based on your work history, the SSDI attorneys at Keller & Keller may be able to help you with your application. Initial disability applications are often denied simply due to errors or omissions on the application. If your adult child is unable to support himself because of a disability he has had since childhood, you may be able to help him become more independent with the benefits you have earned through years of work.
Call to schedule a free case evaluation today. We will take a look at your claim and let you know if we can help.