In order to qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits, a person must be older than age 65, blind or disabled. Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, which are based on a disabled recipient's past work history, you can only get SSI payments if you have limited income and assets. Unless your child is also disabled and meets the low-income guidelines, there are no auxiliary benefits available to a child when a disabled parent receives SSI benefits.
Qualifying for SSI Benefits
You can apply for disability benefits for a disabled child by completing an Application for Supplemental Security Income. It doesn't matter if either parent is disabled and receives SSI benefits. Disabled children may be entitled to receive their own SSI benefits. Supplemental Security Income benefits are different from Social Security Disability benefits; the government pays SSI benefits to low-income individuals who are disabled, even if they have never worked. Although disabled children younger than 18 years old may receive SSI, the disabled child’s parents must be low income. A representative at your local Social Security Office can help you determine if your family’s household income and resources are low enough for your child to qualify to receive SSI benefits.
Applying for Benefits
Call or visit your local Social Security Office to apply for SSI benefits for your disabled child. The claim representative working your case will need to see your child’s birth certificate when you apply. You will also need to provide your and your child's Social Security numbers. As part of the application process, the Social Security representative will ask you to complete a Child Disability Report describing your child’s disability and how it limits daily function. You must also sign an authorization form giving the child’s doctor permission to disclose physical and/or mental condition information.
Income and Resources Guidelines
Social Security takes into account your child's income and resources, as well as the income and resources of any family members living in the child's household. This information helps decide if your child is eligible to receive SSI benefits. Whether or not your child meets the Social Security definition for being disabled, Social Security will deny your child SSI benefits if his income and resources or the income and resources of any family member living in the same household total more than the amount Social Security guidelines allow. If your child is eligible to receive benefits because his income falls within the limits, the amount of the monthly SSI payment depends on the state where you reside. Some states provide a benefit in addition to the SSI benefit the federal government pays. However, you must qualify for federal benefits to receive SSI payments from the state.
Termination of Benefits
Social Security evaluates children who receive SSI benefits of their own after they turn 18 to assess their conditions based on the criteria defining adult disability. This usually occurs within one year of the child turning 18. If the adult child remains disabled, the income and resources of other family members living in the household are no longer considered as criteria for deciding your child's SSI eligibility.
Qualifying for SSDI Benefits
If a family’s income is too high for a disabled parent to qualify for SSI benefits, applying for Social Security Disability benefits may be another option. A minor child is eligible for auxiliary benefits if a parent is disabled and entitled to receive SSDI benefits. The disabled parent must have worked at least five out of the last 10 years to qualify. If you apply for benefits for a child based on your work history, the child must be your biological child, dependent stepchild or an adopted child. A child must be younger than 18 years old and unmarried.
- Social Security Online; Benefits for Children; September 2009
- Social Security Online: Apply for Disability Benefits—Child (Under Age 18)
- Social Security Online; Benefits for Children With Disabilities; January 2011
- Social Security Online; Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Children; 2010
- HCV Advocate; Children’s Benefits Under Social Security; Chambers; November 2008
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.