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Children With Disabilities: Social Security Benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits For Children With A Disability

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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program that pays monthly benefits to people with low incomes and limited assets who are age 65 or older, blind, or disabled. Children can qualify if they meet Social Security's definition of disability and if their income and assets fall within the eligibility limits.

As its name implies, Supplemental Security Income supplements a person's income up to a certain level. The level varies from one state to another and can increase every year based on cost-of-living increases.

Special Income Waiver for Disabled Students

Because disabled children who are attending school have special expenses and because they are working toward becoming self-sufficient through their studies, an exemption is provided for income earned by the students. In 2013 up to $1,730 per month to a maximum of $6,960 per year will not be counted as income for SSI eligibility purposes.

Rules For Children Under Age 18

Most children do not have their own income and do not have many assets. However, when children under age 18 live at home (or are away at school but return home occasionally and are subject to parental control), Social Security considers the parent's income and assets when deciding if the child qualifies. The Social Security Administration refers to this process as "deeming" income and assets to the child.

Rules For Children Age 18 And Older

When a child turns 18, the Social Security Administration no longer considers a parent's income and assets in deciding if he or she can get SSI.

A child who was not eligible for SSI before his or her 18th birthday because a parent's income or assets were too high may become eligible at age 18.

On the other hand, a lower benefit may be given if a child with a disability who is receiving SSI benefits turns 18 and continues to live with his or her parent(s) but does not pay for food or shelter.

Presumptive Disability

The disability evaluation process generally takes several months. However, the law includes special provisions for people (including children) signing up for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability whose condition is so severe that they are presumed to be disabled. In these cases, SSI benefits are paid for up to six months while the formal disability decision is being made. Of course, these payments can only be made if the child meets the other eligibility factors explained above.

Following are some of the disability categories in which Social Security will presume the child is disabled and make immediate SSI payments:

  • HIV infection*
  • Blindness
  • Deafness (in some cases)
  • Cerebral Palsy (in some cases)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Muscular Dystrophy (in some cases)
  • Significant mental deficiency
  • Diabetes (with amputation of one foot)
  • Amputation of two limbs
  • Amputation of leg at the hip

*Social Security uses a special form for children with HIV applying for Presumptive SSI Benefits. It is SSA-4815-F6, which you can obtain by calling Social Security at 800.772.1213. (If you request a copy of this form, please photocopy a copy for us so we can share it with other people in a similar situation.)

If Social Security makes presumptive disability payments, the benefits do not have to be paid back if Social Security later decides that the child's disability is not severe enough to qualify for SSI. 

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