Parenting a special needs child can be just as joyous as any other type of parenting. That said, there are often additional stressors that affect families with special needs children. Children with disabilities often require care that is expensive, which can be a source of worry for parents and caregivers.
The good news is that there are resources and benefits for families with disabled children—like SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income).
Keep reading to find out more about these benefits and whether your family may qualify.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits for Disabled Children
If you have read our previous post on qualifying for SSDI, you know that this type of insurance is a work benefit. By working, an adult pays into the system and receives benefits if he or she becomes disabled and unable to work.
That might make you wonder how a disabled child—who may never have worked—can receive SSDI benefits. Here’s how.
An adult who has been disabled since childhood (before age 22) can receive SSDI benefits. This benefit is called a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on the parent’s SSDI work record. There are two ways an adult “child” can receive SSDI benefits:
- The parent is currently receiving SSDI disability benefits or retirement benefits
- The parent has passed on and worked long enough to qualify for Social Security.
Also, if the child was receiving Social Security benefits as a minor, he or she may be able to continue receiving benefits after age 18.
Because the parent’s record is used, the disabled child does not need to have worked. (You can read our previous post to learn more about work credits and SSDI.)
How to Apply
The Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates disabled adult “child” benefits the same way they evaluate adult benefits.
As the parent or guardian, you have to apply on the child’s behalf. In the claim, you should include evidence of the child’s disability and your Social Security number. (This is evidence of work history.)
Then, the SSA looks at the claim and determines a few things:
- Whether or not the disability qualifies
- Whether or not the parent’s work record entitles them to benefits
- How much the child will receive
Supplemental Security Income for Disabled Children
In certain cases, SSDI isn’t appropriate or won’t apply.
However, there is another option: Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a benefit given to people who have a low income and are blind, disabled, or 65 and older.
You can apply for SSI on behalf of your child under age 18. If your child has a disability that qualifies and your family meets the income requirement, you may be able to get SSI benefits for him or her. Here are some of the conditions:
- Your child has a qualifying disability.
- Your child is not working or earning more than $1,220 in a year. (If your child is blind, the income threshold goes up to $2,040.)
How to Apply
Like with SSDI, SSI benefits are evaluated after you make a claim. In your claim, you’ll need to include documentation of your child’s disability (such as medical records, school reports, etc.).
It takes time for the Social Security Administration to evaluate claims: at least 3 to 5 months. If your child has a certain severe medical condition, however, the SSA may start to pay you right away. These conditions include the following:
- Complete blindness
- Total deafness
- Cerebral palsy
- Down syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Severe intellectual disability (in children age 4 or older)
- HIV infection (symptomatic)
- Low birth weight (below 2 pounds, 10 ounces)
However, if the SSA eventually determines that your child’s disability doesn’t qualify for SSI, you don’t have to pay back the money.
After your child turns 18, the requirements for SSI change slightly. If your child was already receiving benefits, he or she might be able to continue as long as the disability continues. On the other hand, if you and your spouse made too much money for your child to qualify for SSI before, your child might qualify at age 18. That’s because, when your child turns 18, the SSA doesn’t count the parents’ income toward the financial limit.
Questions about SSDI and SSI?
Applying for benefits from the Social Security Administration can be incredibly complex and confusing. In fact, many people who make a claim are turned away at first—often because of a paperwork error or missed document. Fortunately, having an experienced attorney on your side can make the application process easier and increase the odds of success.
If you believe your child qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance and have questions about the process, please call us.
Our SSDI attorneys would be happy to talk to you about your situation and talk to you about your options. Contact us for your free consultation.