Disabled children can apply for Social Security benefits under the Title 16 children’s Supplemental Security Income (child SSI) program. Children’s cases are considered differently than adult disability claims. However, after a child turns 18, Social Security applies the adult standard to decide disability. Note: children between 18 and 22 may be eligible for Disabled Adult Child benefits based on their parents’ contribution to Social Security.
What happens if a child turns 18 before Social Security decides if the child is disabled?
Here is what Social Security says on this (20 CFR 406.924):
If you attain age 18 after you file your disability application but before we make a determination or decision. For the period during which you are under age 18, we will use the rules in this section. For the period starting with the day you attain age 18, we will use the disability rules we use for adults who file new claims, in §416.920.
Put another way, Social Security will consider disability under the child standard for the portion of time the individual was under 18, and use the adult standard for the portion of time the individual was 18 or over. That means you, in effect, have to prove the case twice: once under the child standard and again under the adult standard.
This can get tricky as an individual can be disabled under the one standard but not the other.
Also, when a child was under 18 for only a short part of the total claim, there is an issue of whether it is worth doubling the analysis for the amount of amount of benefits potentially due.
Keep in mind that SSI back benefits can only be paid back to the protected filing date. Also, unless the claim was protectedly filed on the first day of the month, the benefits are rounded up to the next full month.
If a claim was filed on anything other than the first day of the month the child turns 18, there are no additional benefits available. However, the case will still be considered under both the child and adult standards of disability.
If the case was filed on the first day of the month in which the child turns 18, there is only one additional month of benefits. However, the case will be evaluated under both the adult and child standards. The same applies if the child was only under 18 for only a short period of time.
As a result, it is sometimes worthwhile to move the onset date to the date of the child’s 18th birthday. Of course I cannot give you a hard and fast rule describing when to amend the onset date. However, you should be aware of the costs and benefits so you can make an informed decision. In my Colorado disability practice, there have been times where the onset date was amended to age 18, and other times not.