I was asked to address some of the issues parents should consider when deciding whether to start an application for Social Security disability benefits (typically children’s Supplemental Security Income – SSI – benefits) for their disabled child.
Many parents worry that if their child receives Social Security disability benefits, they will be labeled as “disabled,” and carry that for the rest of their lives. Even beyond being on disability, the child may be diagnosed with a socially stigmatizing condition such as mental retardation.
I want my child to have a normal life. I want my child to overcome this. Will being “disabled” make my child stop trying?
I believe that disability can largely remain a private matter. It is possible for a child to be on Social Security disability benefits and not have other students, their parents, or even the school know. Of course, this depends on the nature of the disability and medical practicalities. In many cases, the school should be aware of disabling medical conditions to allow the child to have access to medications at school and to let the school take appropriate action in case of a medical emergency. Also, you may want the school to know so an appropriate Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan can be put into place.
Parents should consider what receiving Social Security benefits might provide and weigh that against the potential negatives. Children’s Social Security benefits usually consist of a monthly benefit amount plus Medicaid benefits. Medical benefits provided by Medicaid are often the main reasons parents apply for their children. Medicaid helps many parents getting out of the local clinic, and opens new treatment possibilities such as seeing a specialist, and obtaining speech, occupational, physical, and cognitive therapies.
Ultimately, I believe it comes down to this, if you feel that the treatment options possible under Medicaid can help your child, it may be time to consider applying for Social Security benefits.