Many parents mistakenly believe children’s Social Security disability benefits (Children’s SSI) are forever. However, that is not the case.
If your child is still on disability when he/she turns 18, you may receive a letter that says the following:
Earlier we wrote to tell you that we would review your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability case to decide if you were still disabled. We are writing now to tell you that because you are over age 18, we will use the same disability rules we use for adults who file new claims to decide your case. However, we will not apply the rule that says we must deny your claim if you are working.
Uh-oh, the disability decision is being re-evaluated!
The letter goes on to say:
Doctors and other trained staff will decide if you are disabled under the disability rules for adults. We may decide that you are not disabled under the disability rules for adults and your SSI payments could stop. The disability rules for adults are different than the disability rules for children we used when we last looked at your case. So we may find you are not disabled now even though we found you disabled before. When we decide we will let you know our decision. Our letter will explain your right to appeal the decision. If you appeal the decision you can also choose to have us continue to make payments until we decide the appeal.
Social Security has to make a re-determination of disability at age 18 in order for benefits to continue. In short, once a child turns 18, they have to once again prove they are disabled — this time under the adult standard.
Social Security provides more information here including how long after a child turns 18 does Social Security review the child’s case:
For disability purposes in the SSI program, a child becomes an adult at age 18, and we use different medical and non-medical rules when deciding if an adult can get SSI disability payments. For example, we do not count the income and resources of family members when deciding whether an adult meets the financial limits for SSI. We count only the adult’s income and resources. We also use the disability rules for adults when deciding whether an adult is disabled.
- If your child is already receiving SSI payments, we must review the child’s medical condition when he or she turns age 18. We usually do this review during the one-year period that begins on your child’s 18th birthday. We will use the adult disability rules to decide whether your 18-year-old is disabled.
- If your child was not eligible for SSI before his or her 18th birthday because you and your spouse had too much income or resources, he or she may become eligible for SSI at age 18.
What are the adult rules for disability?
For adult cases, the principle issue is whether the individual is able to work. A common mistake parents make is to respond, “well of course, my child can’t work, s/he never has worked.” Or, “S/he is still in school, so of course s/he cannot work.”
It is important to remember that Social Security performs a theoretical analysis.
- Social Security does not ask whether an individual is working?
- Or, whether working is the best option for an individual at a particular moment? For example Is is better for an individual to work versus getting a degree)
Social Security only asks is the individual able to work? Note: the work also has to be at a substantial gainful activity level — which roughly translates to full time work.
While having to prove the case over again seems like a lot (and it can be), that a child did previously qualify for disability benefits is a good indicator that the young adult may also qualify under the adult standard.
Note: if you have a child who turned 18 before Social Security was deciding the case, check out what happens to a child’s disability case if the child turns 18 before the case is decided.