Social Security Disability Benefits for Children with Special Needs
Raising a child with special needs can present unique challenges. As a parent, meeting your child’s needs can become quite expensive. Medical bills, supportive care expenses, and specialized education costs can all add up quickly. In some cases, parents may find it necessary to cut back on their workload or leave their job entirely to better care for their child. The resulting loss of income and lack of medical insurance can be financially devastating.
If you need financial assistance to care for your special-needs child, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits on his or her behalf. The following article will provide you with a general overview of the Social Security Disability program and will give you the information needed to begin the application process.
Social Security Disability Benefit Programs
The Social Security Administration (SSA) governs and distributes SSD benefits through two separate programs.
The first program—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)—offers financial assistance to disabled workers and their dependents. Eligibility for this program is based on employment history and the amount of taxes an individual has paid into the system. Typically, children do not qualify for SSDI because they have not had the chance to work or pay taxes.
However, if one or more of a child’s parents is qualified for SSDI or retirement benefits, the child may qualify for dependent benefits based on a parent or guardian’s earnings record. If your child is technically an adult, but became disabled before the age of 22, he or she is considered to be an adult child. Adult children may also qualify for a child’s dependent benefits.
The second disability benefit program is called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs-based benefit program that provides financial assistance to disabled or elderly individuals who earn very little income. To qualify for SSI, applicants cannot exceed very strict financial limitations. Learn more about SSI, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssi/qualify-for-ssi.
In the case of a child, a portion of his or her parent’s income will be “deemed” by the SSA. This means that the SSA will evaluate a parent or guardian’s income to determine whether or not a child qualifies for SSI benefits. The deeming process occurs for children who are under 18 years old, unmarried, and still live with a parent. A parent’s earned income, unearned income, and financial resources will all be taken into consideration.
Certain types of income are not included in the deeming process. Learn more about deeming here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-deeming.htm.
Once a child turns 18, deeming no longer occurs and the SSA will evaluate him or her solely on their own income.
Is My Child Disabled?
In addition to meeting the previously discussed technical eligibility requirements, you must also be able to prove that your child is disabled. The SSA defines disability as the following:
• A child is disabled if he or she does not work and earn substantial income. In 2013, substantial gainful activity is considered to be $1,040 a month.
• A child is disabled if he or she has a physical or mental condition (or combination of conditions) that severely limits his or her ability to perform day-to-day tasks.
• A child is disabled if his or her condition has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death.
The SSA will judge the severity of your child’s condition using an official guidebook of disabling conditions known as the blue book. The SSA’s blue book contains listings for potentially disabling conditions as well as specific medical criteria a person must meet in order to qualify. The SSA has separate listings for adults and children. You can view the child blue book listings, here: http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/ChildhoodListings.htm.
The typical application process for disability benefits can take anywhere from several months to a year. The SSA recognizes that individuals with severely disabling conditions may not be able to wait the standard processing times to receive benefits. For this reason, the SSA allows expedited processing for individuals with certain conditions. This is called the compassionate allowance program. Individuals who qualify for compassionate allowance processing can be approved for benefits in as little as ten days. See the list of approximately 200 conditions that qualify, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/compassionate-allowances.
Beginning the Application Process
Prior to beginning the application process, it is important that you collect medical records that thoroughly document your child’s health condition. Documentation should include records of your child’s diagnosis, medical lab test results, treatments, and hospitalizations. You should also include personal statements from professional adults that interact with your child on a regular basis. This may include doctors, teachers, coaches, or therapists. Personal statements should outline your child’s condition and how it interferes with his or her ability to perform daily activities. You should also collect records pertaining to your personal finances.
Once you are ready to start the application process for SSI, you will need to fill out two separate forms— the “Application for Supplemental Security Income” and the “Child Disability Report”. You can fill out the child disability report online at the SSA’s website. However, you will need to schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office to complete the application for SSI. If you prefer, you can wait until your appointment and submit both at the same time.
It is important that you realize how long and complicated the SSD application process can be. In fact, many applicants are denied. If your child’s application is denied, do not give up. You have the right to appeal the SSA’s decision. If you are persistent in your efforts, your child will be awarded benefits and you will be able to provide the care they need in order to be healthy and happy.
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