My Child Is Disabled. Can They Receive Disability Benefits?

Children can receive benefits under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, provided that the family of the child meets the standards set by the SSA. SSI is a program with very strict criteria, meaning that applicants have to make very little income, and they must have a qualifying disability as determined by the SSA. 

disabled child with her motherIncome limits are calculated differently by the SSA for parents of children with a disability. For most adult SSI recipients, the maximum amount of monthly income they can receive is the monthly benefit amount ($794 in 2021), although the SSA allows for certain deductions from net income when determining if you qualify. For a disabled child under 18 seeking SSI benefits, the parents’ income is analyzed during a process called “deeming” to determine if the household meets the standard of need.

Children with a disability who receive SSI can often automatically qualify for certain Medicaid insurance and waiver programs in the state of Florida.

Obtaining SSI can be difficult, and it can also be tricky to navigate your other options for other forms of child disability benefits. If you need assistance, you can reach out to a disability lawyer on Florida’s Treasure Coast region to learn more about your options and get representation when trying to apply for child disability benefits through the SSA.

A Child With a Disability Can Receive SSI Benefits in Many Cases

The SSA’s Supplemental Security Income program is largely intended for adults with severe economic hardship and who have not contributed a high enough amount of Social Security contributions. The typical disability benefit for adults in the U.S. provided by the SSA is referred to as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because most people eligible to receive it will have paid into Social Security through paycheck withholding or by paying income taxes when filing. If someone applying for disability has never worked, they are almost guaranteed to be ineligible to receive SSDI (although there are exceptions for adults disabled before age 22).

SSI exists to provide for individuals who may not be eligible for other benefits, like SSDI. This includes children with a qualifying disability.

Who Qualifies for SSI for Children?

First, the applicant must meet the SSA’s definition of a child. This definition requires the applicant to be under the age of 18, or they can be under the age of 22 if they are a student “regularly attending school.”

Additionally, the child must meet a standard of disability the SSA itself refers to as “strict”:

  • “The child must have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously 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”

Disability or blindness is determined by a state agency that reports to the SSA. The child will attend a scheduled exam, where their condition and their documented medical history will be reviewed. Once the review is complete, the SSA will make the determination if the child has a qualifying disability.

Reviews are conducted again periodically for children whose medical condition could potentially improve, usually once every three years.

Income Limits Are Determined Through a Process Called Deeming

Income criteria for receiving SSI for a disabled child is different from the strict monthly income limits set for adults who typically receive SSI.

To determine the level of need, the SSA will examine the household income brought in by parents and compare it to the number of non-disabled children in the household. Different calculations are made for “earned” income brought in from gainful employment versus “unearned” income brought in from sources like investments and insurance benefits.

You can use the chart found towards the bottom of the SSA’s “Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI for Children — 2021 Edition” to get an idea of whether your household income qualifies. However, know that the income you have to report for deeming can differ from your net income, according to rules and deductions set by the SSA. Refer to a disability lawyer in your area for more information on how much income to report.

Children can earn some income while receiving SSI for their disability in most situations, as most of these earnings will not be counted towards household income by the SSA.

Can a Child With a Disability Receive SSDI?

A child under 18 can only receive SSDI benefits if they have a qualifying parent recipient of SSDI, a retired parent receiving Social Security, or they have a deceased parent who would have been eligible for Social Security benefits based on their contributions. 

Children under 18 can receive SSDI regardless of whether or not they have a disability under these conditions. 

If a child is disabled, they can continue to receive SSDI benefits until they are 22. SSDI benefits can continue for disabled adults past age 22 if they acquired a qualifying disability before they turned 22.

State Medicaid Programs May Be Available for Disabled Children in Florida

There is a wide range of Medicaid programs available for children with a disability in Florida. Some provide insurance coverage or supplemental coverage for certain medical needs, like in-hospital stays or in-home care, while others offer waivers for certain services. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) states that “individuals who receive SSI are automatically entitled to Medicaid in Florida,” although this is not a blanket guarantee since there may be exceptions for particular cases.

Get Help Receiving Assistance for Your Child From a Treasure Coast Disability Lawyer

Every child has needs and deserves to grow up in a nurturing environment. When the child has a limiting disability or a medical condition, the requirement to care for them becomes even greater of a responsibility.

Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd is here to provide families with guidance, assistance, and representation as they seek benefits for their disabled child. We can help you navigate the application process, appeal a medical decision, and generally manage the process of maintaining your child’s eligibility for SSI. We cannot guarantee that your child will receive benefits, but we can guarantee that we will do everything possible to maximize their chances.

Learn more about what steps to take next and how the disability application process works in detail during a free, confidential, no-obligation case review. Call 866-460-1990 or contact us online to schedule your free appointment today!

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