How A Child with Special Needs Can Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

If you are the parent or guardian of a child who is disabled, he or she might qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). To qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), specific criteria must be met. A child is classified as an individual who is not married, not the head of a household, younger than 18, or younger than age 22 and a student regularly attending school. The disability program for a child is different than the disability program for an adult.

To be eligible for SSI, a child must either be disabled or blind. A child might qualify for disability benefits as soon as he or she is born because there are no minimum age requirements and might be able to receive disability benefits until he or she reaches age 18. Impairments are evaluated using the same disability criteria and definitions for adults. Any child who has a visual impairment might qualify for SSI based on the visual problems if their impairment meets the definition of blindness as set forth by the SSA.

What Are the Income Limits for SSI?

SSI is a needs-based program, so specific income requirements must be met along with the disability requirements. If a child is younger than 18 and is not married but lives with their parents who do not receive SSI benefits, a portion of the parent’s income and resources are considered as being available to the child. This is also done if the child is temporarily away at school and returns home on weekends, during the summer, and on holidays so he or she is subject to parental control. This process where the income is considered is called “deeming.”

When the income and resources are considered, deductions are made from deemed income for parents and any other children living in the home. After the deductions are made, the remaining resources and income are reviewed to determine if the applicant’s child income and resources meet the income requirements for monthly benefits. As an example, the deeming chart for a one-parent family with no ineligible children allows up to $3,209 per month if all income is earned and up to $1,582 per month is all income is unearned. If it is a two-parent household and all income is earned, the limits are $3,981 per month, and if it is all unearned $1,968 per month.

How Are SSI Payments Determined?

There are times with the deeming eligibility chart does not apply. As an example, if the child has his or her own income, the parent pays court-ordered child support, there is more than one disabled child in the household either receiving or applying for benefits, the parent receives a public maintenance payment, or the parents received both earned and unearned income. In those situations, the eligibility and income are counted using a different format. The maximum SSI benefit payment for 2019 is $771 per month. Your total income is calculated then your income that doesn’t count is deducted from that amount. The remaining balance is your countable income. The SSI benefit rate of $771 has the countable income deducted from it. The remaining amount is how much your SSI benefit would be. Some states offer a state supplement, so in those states, the process will vary slightly.

Meeting the Blue Book Requirements for A Child with Intellectual Disabilities

If a child has an intellectual disorder or low IQ that limits the intellectual functioning enough to affect his or her life, they might qualify for SSI benefits. If the financial eligibility requirements have been met, the SSA will determine if the intellectual disorder is disabling enough per SSA guidelines to qualify for benefits. The SSA has a listing of mental and physical impairments considered severe enough to qualify for SSI benefits.

Listing 112.05 is used for intellectual disorders. A child can get automatic approval for benefits based on having a low IQ if he or she meets all the criteria for the listing in the Blue Book. The new listing indicates that in addition to a low IQ, the child must have deficits in one or more areas of functioning, such as comprehension, social interaction, managing himself or herself, or concentration.

The requirements of the new listing:

• The child’s full-scale IQ must be 70 or below or there must be a full-scale IQ scale ranging from 71 to 75 with a verbal performance score of 70 or below and

To qualify, the child must have extreme limitations in one of these areas or severe limitations in at least two of these areas:

• Remembering, understanding, or applying information
• Interacting with others
• Maintaining pace and concentrating on tasks
• Managing oneself – to protect from harm, control behavior, regulate emotions, maintain personal hygiene.

These listing requirements vary significantly from the old listing requirements, which automatically approved a child who had an IQ lower than 60 but did not show extreme or severe limitations.

Applying for SSI Benefits

If you are ready to apply for SSI benefits, you will have to schedule an appointment and apply in person at your local SSA office. You should hear back from the SSA regarding whether or not your child’s claim has been approved between 3 to 5 months after you submit the application.

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