Yes, children may be eligible for disability benefits. A child would only be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, not Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI is only available to workers who have paid into the Social Security system with their taxes, and even an older teenager who has worked would not have worked long enough to be eligible. (However, a child whose parent is disabled and receives SSDI benefits may receive dependents’ benefits, and a disabled teenager could continue to receive SSDI benefits as a “disabled adult child” after reaching the age of 18.)
SSI benefits are a set amount per month and people eligible for SSI are usually eligible for Medicaid as well. The SSI program has income and assets limits. In order to determine eligibility, the Social Security Administration considers any income and assets the child may have, and also considers the income and assets of the parents. In accounting for the parents’ income and assets, Social Security uses a process called “deeming,” in which they consider the parents’ income and then make allocations and allowances based on the living expenses of the parents and any other children in the household.
In order to be found disabled, a child must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations. The impairment must have lasted or be expected to last for 12 months or longer, or be expected to result in death. A child may be found disabled either because their disability meets the requirements of a disability listing, or because the child has functional limitations that are marked and severe.
The process of applying for SSI disability benefits for a child is similar to the process for an adult. Medical evidence is essential to proving the disability. At this time, only part of the application, the Child Disability Report, can be completed online. To complete the rest of the application, the parent should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. If your child was denied SSI disability benefits, you may be able to appeal the decision in a hearing before an administrative law judge. You can have an attorney represent you, who will only be paid a portion of the back payments if the case is won.
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