Applying for SSI Benefits for a Child With Special Needs
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
If you are the parent of a child with special needs, you will know how much added cost your family experiences, from therapy, medical bills, house modifications, and more. A child with special needs may be able to receive ongoing monthly income from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If approved, benefits are paid through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and can be used to cover a child’s everyday needs as well as medical care, educational costs, and other expenses.
To be approved for SSI, a child must have a significant and “medically determinable” disability. Medically determinable impairments are those for which a child has a formal diagnosis and the diagnosis must:
- Be present in medical records
- Be achieved through specific diagnostic tests or other standard processes
- Be made by a licensed and qualified physician
- Meet or match a listed disability or qualify through a functional review
The SSA must also review your child’s financial resources because SSI is a need-based program with financial eligibility rules every applicant must meet. Financial resources include all income and assets that are directly and indirectly available to pay for the child’s needs. The SSA will look at:
- The income and assets of both parents or legal guardianship
- Any finances that belong to the child, which may include things like child support or other support your child receives from friends, family, or other sources
Although the SSA has strict rules for financial eligibility, many children are able to receive benefits through SSI. This is because only a portion of all assets and income is considered as available to pay for a child’s needs. You can learn more about asset limits on the SSA’s website.
Meeting or Matching a Listed Disability
The SSA uses a manual known as the “Blue Book” to review applications for disability. This manual contains hundreds of listings and each listing outlines the severity level requirements for eligibility with a particular diagnosis. The Blue Book also reports the diagnostic tests and other medical records that are necessary to support a disability claim. Some disabilities that children with special needs could qualify for include:
Section 100.00—Low Birth Weight and Failure to Thrive
Section 102.02—Loss of Vision
Section 102.10—Loss of hearing
Section 110.06—Non-mosaic Down syndrome
Section 112.05—Intellectual Disability
Section 112.10—Autism and other pervasive developmental disorders
Section 112.12—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Because the Blue Book is designed for physicians and for disability examiner use, however, it is written in formal medical language. It, therefore, contains complex medical terminology and other difficult to understand information. Your son’s or daughter’s doctor can help you understand the listing under which your child may qualify as well as the medical evidence that’s necessary to meet the SSA’s requirements.
You can find the entire Blue Book online, and your child may either meet a listing exactly or match one closely enough to be approved under that listing.
What if Your Child Can’t Qualify through the Blue Book?
Some children can’t meet or match a listing but still have disabling special needs. The SSA will consider applications even when no listing is met. A functional analysis is necessary and through this analysis, the SSA will look at your child’s limitations. If your son or daughter has pronounced limitations in age-appropriate activities, then he or she may still receive benefits. If your child is severely limited in one of the following abilities, he or she could still qualify for benefits:
- Your child is unable to go to school and receive a typical education
- Your child is unable to communicate or play with other children
- Your child lacks interest in activities or hobbies
- Your child has difficulty concentrating and completing tasks
Submitting Your Application
SSI benefits require a personal interview. Interviews typically take place at the local SSA office. Find the office nearest you with the help of the online locator.
Go prepared to answer questions about your child’s medical condition, doctors, and treatments. You’ll need your financial records as well, including bank statements and other documentation. Review the SSA’s “Child Disability Starter Kit” for more information on what’s necessary during the application interview. You can schedule an appointment by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.
Parenting Special Needs: https://parentingspecialneeds.org/
Assets Limits: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-resources-ussi.htm
SSA’s Blue Book: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/blue-book
Intellectual Disability: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/112.00-MentalDisorders-Childhood.htm#112_05
Local SSA Office: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
Disability Starter Kit: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2020 Magazine