Supplemental Security Income (SSI) makes monthly payments to people with low income and limited resources who are 65 or older, or blind or disabled. But, children younger than age 18 also can qualify for SSI disability benefits if they meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability or blindness, and if available income and resources fall within the eligibility limits. Further, if you collect disability benefits under the SSA, your unmarried children can collect a dependent’s benefit until they reach 18 (or longer if they are students or are disabled, themselves).
There are three different ways children can qualify for SSI disability benefits:
- Low-income, disabled children. Disabled children of low-income parents can collect SSI until they are 18, at which point they might be eligible to start collecting adult SSI benefits. However, their records will be reviewed and they may have to reapply at that time. Children who are approved for disability under the Social Security Administration also are eligible to receive Medicaid benefits. Your child must meet all of the following requirements to be considered disabled and eligible for SSI:
- A. Your child must not be working and earning more than $1,070 a month (in 2014).
- B. Your child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, which result in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means that the condition(s) must limit your child’s activities severely.
- C. Your child’s condition(s) must have been disabling, or be expected to be disabling, for at least 12 months, or be expected to result in death. If your child’s conditions result in “marked and severe functional limitations” for at least 12 continuous months, your child will be found disabled. However, if it does not result in those limitations for at least 12 months, your child will be found not disabled.
- Adults disabled since childhood. Disabled children who are older than 18 but who became disabled before turning age 22 can collect disability benefits if they have a parent collecting Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Social Security retirement income (or a deceased parent who was entitled to one of these benefits before his or her death).
- Children who don’t qualify for SSI. Children who are younger than 18 (or 19 if they are a full-time student) and have a parent currently receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Social Security retirement benefits (the parent had earned sufficient Social Security credits to earn one of these benefits before dying) may be able to collect dependent’s benefits based on their parent’s records, whether they are disabled or not. About 4.4 million children receive approximately $2.5 billion each month from the Social Security Administration because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life for family members and help to make it possible for those children to complete high school. When a parent becomes disabled or dies, Social Security benefits help to stabilize the family’s financial future.
The amount of the SSI payment often differs between states because some states add to the benefit. Your representative can provide you with information that may be unique to your state. He or she also can help you determine whether your child may be eligible for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration and assist you in the application process.