Disabled children under age 18 can receive Social Security disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, or “Child’s SSI.” In order to qualify for children’s disability benefits, Social Security requires that the child:
- Is not working at a job that Social Security considers to be substantial work; and
- Has a physical or mental condition (or a combination of conditions) that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means that the condition(s) very seriously limits his or her activities; and
- The condition(s) has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 1 year or is expected to result in death.
Note: some conditions result in presumptive disability decision. If your child has one of these condition, he or she may be able to be instantly approved.
However, the majority of children’s disability cases focuses on the second part, the requirement of that a condition produces “marked and severe functional limitation.” There are several ways of doing this:
- Just as in adult cases, a child may meet one of the Listing of Impairments. A listing of medical conditions, acceptable medical evidence, and the severity necessary for an impairment to be considered disabling. The children’s listings are available here.
- An impairment may also “medically equal” a listing level impairment. Medically equaling an impairment means that the child’s impairment is not provided in the listings, however, the conditions produces the same or very similar symptoms and limitation as a listed impairment. Note: while you can certainly consider medically equaling a listing, as a practical tip, it is often better to consider meeting or “functionally equaling” a listing.
- An impairment may also “functionally equal” a listing level impairment. This is another way of saying that the child’s condition is as bad as a listing level impairment. However, there are very specific rules for functional equivalence which are best discussed in their own article.
INCOME AND ASSET LIMITS APPLY:
Additionally, just like the adult SSI program, income and asset limits apply. One wrinkle in children’s SSI case is that Social Security looks at household income and assets (instead of just those of the child). Social Security has pages discussing how it decides whether parents’ and child’s income and resources are within allowed limits.
The household financial limits sometimes make children financially ineligible for children’s SSI benefits even though they might meet the medical requirements for disability.
If denied on financial grounds, parents sometimes wait to re-apply for Social Security benefits for their children until the child is 18. At 18, only the child’s income and resources are counted. However, the child is then evaluated under the adult standard for Social Security disability.
Another option parents are often not aware of when re-applying at age 18, is also apply for Social Security Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits.
- DAC provides benefits under the parent’s contribution to Social Security (which may allow for higher monthly benefits).
- As a Title II benefit program, DAC does not count non-compensation sources of income. Gifts, support, inheritance, settlements would not affect DAC eligibility.
- DAC benefits provide Medicare health insurance instead of Medicaid coverage provided with SSI.
Disabled Adult Child benefits have additional requirements. For example: one parent needs to have worked long enough paying into Social Security to qualify.