Low-income disabled children may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits through Social Security. There are many costs involved in caring for a disabled child. These include transportation to medical appointments (which often include longer commutes for specialty care), medications, special mobility equipment, therapy, etc. Income from SSI benefits helps ensure that children get the proper medical care they need, and can potentially help overcome barriers early on that could allow them to be able to adapt and overcome limitations from their disabilities in the future.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires the following when determining disability in children:
- The child must have a physical or mental condition(s) that very severely limits his or her activities; and
- The condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year or result in death.
Social Security has set criteria in their “Blue Book” of medical listings for severity levels which need to be met for a child to be found disabled based on their medical diagnoses. Children can also “functionally equal” a medical listing for disability if they are found to have “severe” impairment in one or “marked” impairment in two of the following areas of functioning:
- Acquiring and using information
- Attending and completing tasks
- Interacting and relating with others
- Moving about and manipulating objects
- Caring for yourself
- Health and physical well-being
SSA will consider medical records, school records, teacher questionnaires, therapy notes, and statements from support service providers and family members (among others) to determine what kinds of limitations the child may have and whether the severity level of disability is met.
SSA assesses disability in children differently than they do for adults. Because of this, if a child is approved for SSI benefits, their case will be reviewed once they become 18 years old to determine whether or not they are still considered “disabled” by Social Security.
Caring for disabled children can be quite overwhelming, and often involves plenty of expenses. SSI benefits can help low-income families ensure that their child receives the care they need.
Written by Disability Specialists’s President and Disability Representative Amy Pearson