SSI for children with special needs may seem like a complicated process BUT it doesn’t need to be.
Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for your child and how it works is actually pretty simple.
You may be wondering …
What age can a child start receiving SSI?
How do you know if a child is eligible for benefits?
How do I apply?
We will explore these commonly asked questions and more.
Most importantly, equip you with the information you need to understand how SSI for a child with special needs works.
Let’s get started.
What Age Qualifies for Supplemental Security Income?
In the government’s eyes, you are considered a “child” if you fall under one of these two categories …
- You are under the age of 18 years and you are NOT married and NOT the head of your household.
- You are under the age of 22 years and you are a student who is REGULARLY going to school.
Does your child fall under one of these two categories?
If YES, let’s move onto the next question.
How Do You Know If Your Child Is Eligible for SSI Benefits?
Your child has to be blind or disabled in order to be eligible for benefits.
BUT what does that mean exactly to be “blind” or “disabled” in the government’s eyes?
Both terms can be thought about in different ways so here are the eligibility facts according to “Uncle Sam”.
What is considered “blind” for a child to be eligible for SSI?
- “You have a central visual acuity for distance of 20/200 or less in your better eye with use of a correcting lens.”
- “You have a visual field limitation in your better eye, such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees.”
So if you are legally blind, your vision is 20/200 or less in one eye.
This means if an object is 200 feet from you, you have to stand AT least 20 feet from it in order to be able to see it clearly.
To whereas a person with normal vision could stand 200 feet away from that same object and be able to see it clearly.
Your child’s eye specialist (or paediatric ophthalmologist) will diagnose blindness by testing each eye such as measuring the visual acuity and visual field, or peripheral vision.
Once the diagnosis is determined, blindness can be in one eye only (known as unilateral blindness) or both eyes (known as bilateral blindness).
What is considered “disabled” for a child to be eligible for SSI?
If you have a physical or mental impairment (including an emotional or learning problem) that:
- “Results marked and severe functional limitations; and”
- “Can be expected to result in death; or”
- “Has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
Based upon these criteria then you are eligible for Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI).
Let’s Recap A Child’s Eligibility Requirements for SSI …
We covered a lot of information so let’s explore a quick snapshot of what makes a child eligible for SSI:
- Legally “blind” or “disabled”
- There is NO minimum age requirement to receive benefits which can start as early as birth
- Under the age of 18 years and is NOT legally married and NOT the head of the household
- Under the age of 22 years who attends school REGULARLY
- Can receive benefits up to the age of 18 and at that time a re-evaluation is complete as the child is considered an “adult” with a disability (which falls under more eligibility requirements)
- If blind, you can receive benefits indefinitely during your lifetime
- If blind, your impairment has had to last for 1 year (or 12 months) or the impairment is expected to result in death
Income and Resource Rules ALSO Apply for Eligibility
Social security looks at BOTH your child’s income and resources in addition to the family members who live in the household with them.
SSI Rules for Child Eligibility
If your child is younger this most likely will not pertain to them.
However, if you have a tween or a child older under 22 years these SSI rules could impact their eligibility so let’s quickly go over the criteria:
- If blind, they must not be working or earning more than $2,190 in 2021 (keep in mind this earning amount usually changes every year).
- If NOT blind, they must not be working or earning more than $1,310 a month in 2021.
- The medical condition has to result in “marked and severe functional limitations” which means their condition must be severe enough to limit their activities.
- The medical condition must be disabling or be expected to be disabling for at least 12 months or the condition(s) must be expected to result in death.
SSI Rules for Family Eligibility
Social security MAY consider a portion of your income and resources (as the parent or caretaker) as if it is available to your child only IF they are under 18 years, not married, living at home with you, and you currently do not receive SSI benefits.
Social security will take into consideration the following income:
- Earned income (i.e. money from your job)
- Unearned income (i.e. money you get as a gift for your birthday, financial prize you won, unemployment benefits, interest from your savings account)
- Other resources (i.e. land, life insurance)
This WHOLE process of taking into consideration your income to determine your child’s eligibility for SSI benefits is called “deeming”.
“Deeming income” can come from families in the household who are considered a parent, stepparent, or adoptive parent.
How “Deeming Income” Works
After social security looks at your income, they will make the necessary deductions from your family household “deemed income”.
In a nutshell, if the income and resources are MORE than the amount allowed, then your child’s application for SSI benefits will be denied.
For more information about “deeming” parental income and resources click here or call 1–800–772–1213 (TTY 1–800–325–0778),
What are the SSI Amounts for 2021?
“The monthly maximum Federal amounts for 2021 are $794 for an eligible individual, $1,191 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $397 for an essential person.”
According to social security, let’s recap what each recipient means …
- Eligible individual is any person who is 65 or older, blind or disabled, a U.S. citizen or lawful resident, and has very limited income and financial resources.
- Eligible couple are two SSI eligible people who are legally married under their state law where they have a permanent home, live together in the same household, and refer to themselves as
husband and wife to the community in which they live, or determined by SSA to be entitled to either husband’s or wife’s Social Security benefits as the spouse of the other. It’s important to know BOTH spouses have to be SSI eligible.
- Essential person is someone who lives with an SSI beneficiary and provides essential care. This could be a child taking care of a parent, or a live-in caretaker.
How to Apply for SSI For a Child (Step By Step)
Step #1. Familiarize yourself with the Disability Starter Kit.
This kit will answer commonly asked questions you may have in addition to prepping you for your appointment with social security.
Let’s dive into how to set up your appointment next …
Step #2. Complete a Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) Application.
Unfortunately, this application does NOT have an online version yet because they want to talk to you in person about your child’s disability.
You will have to contact social security to set up an IN PERSON appointment to complete the application.
To apply, you can call Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or by visiting your local Social Security office.
When the date of your appointment is confirmed and you meet with a person at the social security office, you will be asked questions.
The questions will seem similar to doing an “interview” as you will get asked about your child’s disability in order to complete the SSI Application.
Again, going over the “Disability Starter Kit” will help prep you for the items to take with you before going into your meeting with social security.
Two items you will definitely need to have with you is your child’s social security card and birth certificate.
Step #3. Complete a Child Disability Report online.
This report will capture your child’s disability information and how it impacts their ability to function.
If you do not want to complete the “Child Disability Report” online or if you have questions and need help filling it out online, call 1-800-772-1213.
If you are hard-of-hearing or deaf and need help, call 1-800-325-0778.
Both phone numbers are toll free. 🙂
I hope this post added value to your research efforts in understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for a child with special needs.
If you have questions or anything you’d like to add that I did not cover in this post, please feel free to comment below.
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