Many people ask me about whether their children will qualify for Social Security benefits based on medical conditions early in their lives:
We have two adopted children that we have had since birth. One is now 14, but was born at 26 weeks weighing 1lb 14 ou. The other is now 12 but was born at 32 weeks at 3lbs 5oz.
Are they eligible for Social Security benefits now?
It is important to remember that Social Security benefits for disabled children fall under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Just as in adult SSI cases, children can only receive benefits as of their protected filing date (PFD); there are no benefits before the PFD.
That means Social Security will focus its attention on whether the child is disabled at present. There is actually a bit of wiggle room here as there can be an issue of disability starting before the PFD. However, the period of disability has to continue through the protected filing date. If you cannot show the child is disabled as of the date of filing a claim for Social Security child SSI benefits, while the child may have been disabled in the past, there are no benefits available to the child and there is no case.
Put another way, a child might have been eligible for disability benefits as an infant, or at some other time in the past, if someone filed an application. However, if no one did, you cannot file an application now based on a disability in the past.
The only exception, and it is a limited one, is when there was a prior claim filed in the past and it is still within the time period reopen the prior claim – two years from the date of the initial denial on the prior claim. If there was a prior claim, and it is within 2 years of the initial denial on that prior claim, it may be possible to try to reopen that case with a new application.
I understand that this is a harsh rule, and I find myself commiserating with parents who tell me about their children’s early hospitalizations and medical problems. However, the discussion always turns to the issue of whether there is a current claim and whether the child is disabled as of the protected filing date.
Whether a child qualifies for disability benefits depends on meeting the initial non-medical requirements and the severity of their conditions and how well the child’s medical conditions are documented. Working with a lawyer can help you get an idea of your child’s chances on a disability case. However, it is still only a guess. The only way to find out is to apply.