Some children have disabilities from the time of birth, while others might develop them later on in childhood. Regardless of when the disability manifests, however, it can have a profound and lasting effect on a child’s life. Parents of disabled children often face significant challenges in providing the best possible care for their child. It is not always easy to obtain the financial resources needed to meet a child’s special needs.
The parents’ income may not be enough to pay for daily care, special equipment, or ongoing medical treatment over the long term. If a child’s disability is expected to last for at least one year and prevents him or her from participating in age-appropriate activities, the child may qualify for Disability Benefits for Children from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
When Can You Apply For Disability Benefits For Children?
There are rules and regulations that govern whether a child qualifies to receive disability benefits or not. Children can get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if they meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability for children, which is different from the adult definition.
The definition of a disabled child for SSI purposes is a person under the age of 18 who:
- has a physical or mental condition (or a combination of both) that results in “marked and severe functional limitations”; and
- has, or is expected to have, the condition for at least one year or until he or she turns 18, whichever is shorter.
A child can have any kind of physical or mental condition that meets this definition, as long as it causes the severe functional limitations described above. It does not matter whether it is congenital (present from birth) or acquired later in childhood.
The SSA will consider all of a child’s symptoms and how they limit his or her activities when making a decision about whether the child is disabled. There is no specific list of medical conditions that automatically qualify children for SSI, as each child’s individual circumstances will be considered.
The SSA also requires that the child’s family income and assets fall below certain levels. A child can qualify for SSI even if neither parent is working. However, a child’s eligibility for SSI may be affected if the parents are working and earn above a certain amount of money.
Please note that children who qualify for SSI may also be eligible for Medicaid, which is a joint federal-state program that pays for medical care for low-income people. Each state has its own Medicaid program, with different rules and eligibility requirements.
When children turn 18 and are no longer considered minors, they must meet the SSA’s definition of disability for adults to continue receiving SSI benefits. The adult definition of disability is different from the definition for children, and requires that the applicant be unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.
However, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to adults whose disability began before they turned 22 years old. The SSA considers the child’s disability to be “continuing” if it began before age 22 because the child is considered to be “dependent” on the parent’s earnings record.
The SSDI program is different from SSI in several ways. First, to qualify for SSDI benefits, a child must have a parent who is (or was) insured by Social Security. This means that the parent must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain period of time.
Second, SSDI benefits are based on the parent’s work history, not on the family’s income and assets. So, a child can qualify for SSDI even if the family has high income and assets.
Third, there is no limit on the amount of money that a family can earn while the child receives SSDI benefits.
Summary Criteria For Child Disability Benefits
To be eligible for disability benefits, the child should:
- be younger than 18 years old;
- have a physical or mental condition (or a combination of both) that results in “marked and severe functional limitations”; and
- have, or is expected to have, the condition for at least one year or until he or she turns 18.